Amen – Death Before Musick – 4/5
An album that has been on my ‘to-do’ list since the dawn of the blog, it comes as a particularly difficult one for me to review, largely due to the manner in which they came to my attention. It was following a particularly bad day that I decided on the spur of the moment to visit my local music venue and release some energy, undeterred by the as yet unknown to me band headlining. As fate would have it, Amen would be performing their fabled ‘Underworld’ gig, featuring a more pissed off Casey Chaos (lead vocalist) than ever before. Following the best part of a bottle of whisky drunk then thrown into the crowd (along with a couple of cymbals used as frisbees, smashed against the concrete pillars, a broken bass drum and two broken microphones) he reveals that he had just received news of the death of good friend Paul Raven (Killing Joke), and he too was working through his anger issues.
It is Casey himself that is truly on show here, writing all the material and recording all but the drums himself, with a vocal style much akin to that of Johnny Rotten, except in Rotten’s own words “far more pissed off than I ever was.” Raw and visceral he presents an uncompromising vocal spectacle that what it lacks in ability, oozes with powerful emotion unlike any other punk band I’ve heard, delivering the best he has to offer. With hard hitting lyrics that are instantly memorable (e.g. “Rise up and be discarded, Rise up to be misunderstood,”) it easily ticks the box requiring it to be anthemically addictive.
The drums maintain a basic back beat that feels prominent enough to assist the aggressive flow of the track without being too demanding. Unusually, the bass can also be heard supplying the base riff on the bottom end, worked underneath the layer of guitars providing a never ending supply of addictive riffs and chord sequences that sound every bit as pissed off as the vocals.
This is an artist that hasn’t stretched the mould to provide something innovative. In fact, they’ve done the reverse, taken a step back in time to release an album that would feel more at home in the soundscape of the Sex Pistols and Black Flag, simple and catchy it retains a certain punk brand of brutality that makes this album stand head and shoulders above the rest. This isn’t an album to listen to for something creative, this is one that you should listen to when down and in need of a release of excess aggression, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Highlights: California’s Bleeding, EXTERMINATE!, Fuck in LA