Latest album: Revelator (EVP)Website: theamenta1.bandcamp.com/
Almost exactly seven years ago, at the conclusion of a tour with Rotting Christ, extreme metal entity The Amenta laid down their weapons and announced a break from any further live performance. After a decade of death- and black-metal laced industrial nightmares, core members Tim Pope and Erik Miehs felt they had reached the point of creative burnout. The tour-record-tour cycle had to be brought to a close, no matter what that might mean for the eventual future of the band.
“We didn’t know how it was going to go,” Pope admits. “After that process, we were completely burned out and uninspired. The idea of doing another album then… we thought it would just end up being the same old stuff, which would be boring for us and probably boring for everyone else. So we thought, let’s disappear for a while and pull the pressure off. If we get inspired and write another album, fucking great. If not, then the band can just disappear and fade away into nothing! We had no idea how it was going to go.”
As it turned out, when they took the pressure off, the creative juices started flowing again very quickly. Pope and Miehs found themselves working on new material much sooner than they anticipated, but it was all supposed to end up as a completely new musical project.
“The idea was to write for something that wasn’t The Amenta. To start a new project that didn’t have this historical weight behind it. There was no one to expect it to sound a certain way, there was no record labels. We came up with ten songs, and during that process we realised that some of them could be new directions for The Amenta.”
And so, after extensive rewrites to make them “correct”, a new direction for The Amenta is what they became. Nearly eight years since they came to a halt, the engines began to fire up again when Sere Money appeared in November 2020, the first taste of the band’s latest album Revelator. While there were internal misgivings that a sudden return after so long might set them back to square one, those fears were unfounded. Reaction to the new track was immediate, and immediately positive.
“Because it had been so long, we had no idea whether people still cared or even knew who the band was,” Pope says. “So a couple of months before we sent the album out, we started posting a few things on social media, which we hadn’t done for a long time. It was heartening to see that people were getting excited about what was going on. There was a bit of a buzz there, which was cool.”
Initially revolving around the creative axis of Pope and Miehs, The Amenta began to develop more of a band dynamic with the addition of Perth-based vocalist and visual artist Cain Cressall in 2009.
“In the beginning Erik and I wrote every single song. Basically it was he and I in a room, feeding off each other, and you get a kind of limited amount of inspiration that way. We got a lot out of it, and we were able to bring in a lot of really talented people in to help us work those ideas out. Ever since Cain’s come in, we’ve had this third creative core and he’s been able to come in with us and help us write.”
The frontman for various Perth death metal bands including Centaur, Pathogen and, most significantly, Malignant Monster, Cressall brought a voice and vision to The Amenta that married as close to perfectly with Pope and Mieh’s as anyone they had working in the band with them previously.
“It happened really organically, and immediately, and that’s something that had never happened with us with other players before. Every time someone’s come into the band, there’s been a level of understanding there, that Erik and I, because we’ve been doing it for so long, of what works, how we write, and what works for the band. Quite often we’ll bring a new guitar player in, and they’ll write these riffs that are great riffs, but it doesn’t really sound like us.
“It doesn’t have that thing,” Pope explains. “Whereas Cain came in, and he’s got such an artistic eye – not only does he have a brilliant voice, he has such an artistic eye that he could recognise the elements of the band we had, plus he brought in all these other ideas which were a new direction or an extension of what we were doing that Erik and I wouldn’t have come up with. Cain happened to bring them in, and it was correct; it works for us.”
Noticeably, Flesh is Heir, The Amenta’s first album with Cressall, was a more focused translation of their ideas than the first two albums. Developing out of a love for black metal but an unwillingness to be black metal, The Amenta’s early musical experimentation in search of their own style was more of a hodgepodge of clashing ideas, which Pope rediscovered when he was archiving an old hard drive recently.
“It was insane. It was like looking at old photographs of you when you were young and your mum was still dressing you. You’re wearing weird fucking broadshorts and you’re like, ‘What the fuck is that?’” he says with a laugh. “I was hearing weird musical decisions that we made that were fortunately sorted out before the album was made. Back then, I don’t think we knew what kind of band we wanted to be. It was just a black metal part that went into a death metal part… it wasn’t that homogenous sound that [Ocassus] was representative of. It wasn’t complete. It was all over the place.”
Revelator is a further redefinition and expansion of the band’s experimental inclinations, given a small gulf of time to percolate as the group’s members followed other pursuits. Miehs spent several years in London and now lives in Adelaide, meaning the band’s core members are still separated by three timezones.
“That’s something we’ve always dealt with,” Pope says. “In the old Amenta, Dave (Haley) was the one who lived furthest away – he was in Hobart – and then there is Cain who’s in Perth, so there’s always been this ridiculous distance between the band.”
For a band so adept at the use of technology in the creation of their sound, the tyranny of distance hasn’t proved to be too much of an ordeal.
“We managed to write a lot of the basis for Revelator while Erik was still in Sydney, and then we’d send stuff over to Cain. Then a lot of recording and mixing went on while Erik was in London, so we worked on processes to make it smoother. It’s definitely not easy, but technology makes it easier. I can open up a Google file and work on stuff that Erik’s already worked on. When he was in London, I could work through his night, so when he opened a file there’d be a whole bunch of new stuff to work on.”
The results have resonated strongly among those who knew the band and those discovering them for the first time. Revelator is both familiar and vastly different from all the band’s previous recordings, an ambitious, exciting and experimental work of epic scope that captures all of The Amenta’s proclivities perhaps better than anything they’ve so far attempted.
“For us, it’s felt like there’s a difference between [our albums] and there’s always new elements and we’re introducing people to a new facet of the band,” Tim Pope says. “That’s, hopefully, always been there. But because it’s been so long, those changes have been astronomical for us. We’ve done a lot of experimenting and done a lot of different things. One good thing about our listeners is they tend to be quite open-minded, and as long as the music is dark and ugly, it still sounds like The Amenta. Even though it’s coming from very different sound sources, people have been happy to embrace it and see it as part of what we do.”