Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Upon Listening To Amok's Necrospiritual Deathcore

I listen to a lot of music. Tons. It is one of the great joys in my life. And you never really know what is going to hit you the hardest next. Or at least I don't. Not all the time anyway. Sure, I have a good idea by now what I will like and what I won't like based on prior listening and descriptions. Some things definitely sound enticing to me when I read about them beforehand. And I know I will probably be turned off if I read certain warning sign words in a review or article or whatever. "post-Soft Bulletin Flaming Lips", "emocore", "Death Cab For Cutie", "Amerindie pop with a dash of electronica". Stuff like that. Basically, 90% of the junk promo e-mail I get reads like a worst-case scenario to some degree. And I definitely anticipate loving certain things before I hear them. I was so blown away by French band Deathspell Omega's Kenose album that I really couldn't wait to hear their next album. Lots of people felt this way. Kenose was special. It FELT genuinely evil. The darkness surrounding it is the kind that is not easily duplicated or faked. You have to commit wholeheartedly to making music like that, and you have to give of yourself to receive something so, in some ways, repellent. Or abrasive. Well, not if you are a metal fan you don't. Not usually. Abrasive and repellent is par for the course. But some records work so hard to push against you. Push you away from the music. For adventurous listeners, this means that it's time to push back. To dive in and see how far under you can go. Try and figure out what the hell is going on in there. This is me, anyway. This is what I like to do. I allow the music to take me over. To have its way with me. Which is one reason why I listen to music louder than most people do. I don't want it to be background. Wallpaper. Something to wash dishes too. Don't get me wrong. I do wash dishes and listen to music. But I want to HEAR it. And the women in my life have been turning it down for decades.
Anyway, the follow-up to Deathspell Omega's Kenose came out in 2007 and I enjoyed it a great deal. But it didn't suck me in like Kenose. I didn't grapple with it. Ultimately, it's probably a more "listenable" album. It's still crazed and heavy and nuts and all that, but it doesn't create that perfect storm of atmosphere that Kenose whipped up in its tsunami of blackness. Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, the latest album, suffers a bit from Kenose's success. This band has already BEEN to the other side. So what do you do for an encore? It's a tough trick. A trick that many bands before them have tried to pull.
Norway's Amok was one of the bands that pulled me down to new depths in 2007. Their Necrospritual Deathcore album on the Planet Satan Revolution label threw me for all kinds of loops. Here's my review from Decibel Magazine:

Color me impressed! Amok’s first full-length is a helluva malevolent beast. A big shout-out to Necrocum, Goatpromoter Lava, Iscariah and… Stanley. Sigh. Attention, dudes in bands: Just GIVE your drummer a cool name, OK? Apparently they have a hard time coming up with one on their own. Anyhoo, these Norse noise boys serve up the blackened death-thrash hybrid with scary aplomb. With their heavy, heavy super-repetitive riffs that sink below ground in a swirling depressive spiral, you can see why the band name-checks olde-tyme demonic thudmasters like Von and Sadistik Exekution. But just when you think you’re in for simple heads-down mid-tempo thrash or proto-BM, they throw in a what-the-fuck echo-laden blues guitar solo or some other disorienting effect and top it all off with some modern BM flair. Suffice it to say, there’s more than meets the eye here.

And this leads you to the three-part showpiece of the disc. The creepy Jim Jones samples in between songs are another harbinger of the dementia to come. After a long-ass intro of tubular bells and monk chanting comes a completely sick guitar line that sets the mood for this mini-epic. Lots of spoken word shouting—Jim Jones transcripts?—culminates in the drone-like repetition of the line “No way out/ There is never a legitimate reason for leaving” amid all manner of unearthly sounds, time-changes and that sick sick guitar. So cool! Also, it sounds like a different band entirely from the first half of the album. Then things get really weird. More of these fucked noises, please! And a shout-out to Nazipenis Hoest, who plays drums on this “Goatflesh Removal” trilogy; he’s always there when you need him. Apparently Malfeitor Fabban from Aborym is on this thing somewhere too, but all is chaos, and who can tell what’s going on? Highly recommended for fans of all things mysterious and spooky. Or just for Satanists with a taste for bad-ass guitars. You aren’t all into cheesy keyboard action, right? —Scott Seward

So, yeah, that's how I felt about the album at the time in spring of 2007. Translated into Decibelese, of course. And I kept coming back to it. The guitars on Amok's album...ooh la la. They are everything over-distorted guitars should be. Just glorious. But it's that album-ending "Goatflesh Removal". Man, I just can't explain it properly. The spoken vocals that are at complete odds with the rest of the album. The mantra-like calm. One of the missions for Amok as a band was to take things back to that old school of 80's scuzzbucket death and (actually fairly rocking) destruction of yore. And it is mission accomplished until this last bit. Because the last bit doesn't remind me of any Cro-Magnon proto-death acts I can think of. When I'm listening to the Goat Removal Trilogy, and Necrocum and Goatpromoter Lava and the rest are firing on all cylinders, I realize that I want everything to sound like this forever. That I want it to last forever. The song. This music. I never asked for these sounds. I had no idea what to expect when I put the cd on. I had never heard Amok before. The last albums by Primordial, Harvey Milk, and Converge have made me feel this way as well. It's as if time has stopped. The sounds these bands are making are simply archetypal sounds that act as perfect illustrations of what their music is and what their time on earth sounds like and what their creative goals are and what has come before them and what will come after them. I mean, PERFECT. The noises they are making are historic noises. They are making history in sound. Not for record books. I mean, that they are making history in the way that a tree makes history when it grows another ring. Their growth has enabled them to perfectly actualize their moment in time and space. Your most perfect day on earth may beat these albums by a mile, but nobody, as of this moment, has devoted a 100% cotton hoodie to your perfect day. And I never SAW your perfect day. So I must report on phenomena as it reaches me through whatever means are at my disposal. You can send me pictures of your perfect day, but I can't promise anything. Okay?


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