Amebix – Sonic Mass

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Rob Miller, as is his right, has declined to provide lyrics for the new Amebix album, Sonic Mass. Therefore, I am left to my own devices to discern what it’s actually about. Unfortunately, I have not yet succeeded. I do not understand what “God of the Grain” is about, nor how it is connected with the “Shield Wall”, or “Here Come the Wolf”, or, really, any other track on the album.

I may not comprehend the album, but I do think that I feel what it means, that I apprehend it. For me, old Amebix created a feeling that was unlike anything any other band produced. Within the same album, often within the same song, the lyrics and music were angry, melancholy, disgusted, sad to the point of desperation; yet the tone could suddenly turn to one of empowerment, righteous defiance, even hope. I think that Amebix is the sound right before a man dies, right before Man dies. It is the sound of giving up to the inevitable, mourning the loss. But it is also the sound of a person saying, “I will not give up. Though I may suffer, no one may take my dignity or my rights. I am free, I know what is true, and I cannot be broken.” Old Amebix is a gutcheck for me. It makes me stop and think about where I am and who I am, about where and who I want to be, and then it boots me in the ass, down the road to improving myself and the world around me.

On the basis of my emotional understanding, Sonic Mass is the best record Amebix have ever created, shattering my expectations. It feels like Monolith and Arise! and everything else they’ve released, but it feels stronger and more alive, and it must be treated as an album rather than a collection of songs. Amebix rode ‘The Chug’ like no other band before or since, turning it into art, rather than just a crude sonic device for inducing moshing or headbanging. With Sonic Mass, they finally have a production with both power and clarity, and, though I feel bad about saying this, they finally have a drummer to match their ambitions. Through age and experience, or a shift in mentality, or perhaps a combination, the songwriting has tightened, and yet the band’s attack has been leavened with measures of subtlety and calm, widening the music’s emotional range.

It is entirely appropriate that Sonic Mass feels like Amebix always did, because so little has changed in the last two decades. How little we have learned, how little we have grown! We spill our blood in the sands of the Middle East, the jungles of South America and south-east Asia, the mountains of Afghanistan, a thousand other places. Still we slaughter in the name of gods, hollow principles, political differences, the color of skin, make-believe lines on maps. Still we squabble over precious resources, only to squander them. We slowly murder the only home we have ever known.

We still gas ourselves in death camps.

Are we worth saving? Can we save ourselves from ourselves?

Amebix have created a rare and precious thing: a piece of art that makes us think and feel. We need to feel disgust and disappointment at ourselves, and at our rotting, violent excuse for a civilization, but we also need the tiny seed of hope that has been planted. There is a better way.

No gods. No masters.

— Richard Street-Jammer

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HEAR SONIC MASS

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Amebix – “God of the Grain”

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Amebix – “Knights of the Black Sun”

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Amebix (CD, LP)

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