AMEBIX - Sonic Mass CD
Easy Action Records
Genre: Post Punk
Just by accident I caught what someone (on a hipster site) had already written about this, the first all new material from AMEBIX since 1987. I stopped reading after the first paragraph since I did not want to be tainted by that writer's opinion before I heard this. Secondly I believed the next thing I was about to read was a description of some sexual solo act he performed while listening to Sonic Mass. Hey look anticipation is one thing but slobbering like a lonely teenager who has just discovered free Internet porn is ridiculous. Thankfully for you I'm here to put some reality to the subject at hand. As far as AMEBIX goes in general I have to ask since when did they become legendary let alone a cult band? Back in the mid 80's except for people who were glued to the pages of Profane Existence and MRR, they were virtually unknown here in the states. The Arise LP did come out on Alternative Tentacles in 1985 but no one really cared. Also AMEBIX used synthesizers which was something considered very "un-punk" by the self appointed punk police back then. (Hell a few years later they were calling Jello Biafra a sell out) If you asked someone about DISCHARGE or the SUBHUMANS they would have told you all the records they had. But if you mentioned AMEBIX someone would say yeah they had a patch on their jacket which they got from some anarcho punk distro. There was an exception though and that was your local college town record store clerk who was a lonely music snob anyways. Now that guy not only knew about AMEBIX but he was also into KILLING JOKE, aka: music for people who couldn't get laid. Nowadays we call these people hipsters.
Now be that as it may (because I don't wanna repeat the same thing I did with that last WITTR review aka: another anti-hipster screed) since I was around back then I can honestly say that AMEBIX was dead and gone before those few people got into them. Their Monolith LP from 1987 really didn't get a good response from your typical underground punk zine scribes since it was on Heavy Metal Records. That was also considered grounds for selling out. (Strangely enough when that same release was re-issued in 2008 it was being praised) Also the people who are going all gaga over em today (as well as the past few years in alternative circles) were not around either. As far as them being lauded as godfathers of crust punk I believe that's a load of revisionist shit. If you go back and listen to those releases (which I'm sure has crashed a few free download sites) you will hear what we called "avant garde punk". I used to think they were jazz influenced until I learned that they just didn't know how to play early on. The band who really influenced what would later be characterized as "crust" was DISCHARGE. The only thing those so-called "crust bands" (we just called things Punk or Hardcore) took from AMEBIX was their cover art style from the EPs. Musically AMEBIX were more in line with CRASS and their political views were on the same terms as well. So it is with all of that I come to this latest release by a band who is now called "one of the best-loved and most influential bands in heavy music." Really? And how high do they pile bullshit in your small world? It's one thing to be jaded about the music, which by the way I'm not since I probably have more 80's underground anarcho punk from tape trading back in the day than any modern day interweb revisionist scribe, but before I even pushed "play" my bullshit detector was screaming "beware over-hyped horse shit ahead."
So I'm listening to Sonic Mass and thinking to myself, "hmmm so when did these guys get into post punk"? If you have any of their older material (which I do including live bootleg tapes) you will be surprised how far they, aka: the Miller brothers (Rob - bass/vox and Stig - guitar) with their latest drummer Roy Mayorga (NAUSEA, SOULFLY, CRISIS, to name a few and who also produced this release) have progressed from their root sound. Sonic Mass does sound like a shoegazer release from the 90's. In fact if they had reformed back around the mid 90s then I would have not been surprised if this is what they would have done. Go back and listen to Monolith and you'll trace the path to this. Also since Mayorga was in NAUSEA back then he would've probably called them sellouts because that was the anarcho punk thing to do. Strange how things work out isn't it. Along with the drum duties and producing this release Mayorga is also responsible for the keyboards on here which brings this up to the symphonic level. To me the over production on here washes away any and all grit that this act once had. Then again it has been over twenty years so maybe by now they've learned to tune their guitars. Swallow hard for you're in for something of which is more on atmosphere and less on aggression. Imagine Britpop with an anarchist bent, although I really don't know what Rob "the Baron" Miller is singing about. As far as personal tastes go I really think this is boring but I like how these guys have simply thrown the middle finger or the backwards V for Victory bugger off sign to their roots. Even their avant garde strange is completely gone and replaced with indie rock sensibilities. In other words this is a pale comparison to what they were once doing along with their peers. Please note AMEBIX were a decent band back in the days of 80's English Punk and Hardcore. But they were nothing to the likes of the hype which has been piled about em nowadays. In the end Sonic Mass resembles the hype in that it's all hot air and that blows. But I'm sure if you're weak then you might enjoy it. Just keep staring at the cover art.