Going in-depth with the Australian unit following a successful set of releases this year.
Words by KMaN (@kmanriffs):
Have you ever yearned for a metal band that refuses to fit inside the conventional parameters of what heavy music should sound like? A band that sounds like no other, and almost intentionally derails itself when even the slightest glimpse of cliché or stereotypical patterns of delivery invades their writing style? Sydney, Australian act The Amenta have been throwing down such behaviour since their arrival with 2004’s debut Occasus. They don’t adhere to the regular album-tour-album cycle. True to their word about not repeating themselves, they even took an 8 year ‘hiatus’ after 2013’s Flesh is Heir album; a chance to recharge and venture into other projects. Fortunately, everything post-Flesh couldn’t remove itself from the powerful clutches of what The Amenta had become and thus, album No. 4, Revelator, was born and unleashed back in February this year.
6 months down the track, a limited 2 track EP, Solipschism, was released last Friday and as a matter of course, I caught up with keyboard/samples/noise merchant Timothy Pope to chat about the return of his band, the new album & EP, live gig frustrations and what the future may hold for The Amenta going forward. With Tension & Dread, please read and enjoy:
Welcome to Heaviest of Art, Tim! We’ve had this lined up for quite some time, but finally, it’s great to have you answer some questions for us today!
Pope: Hey, KMaN! Thanks for the chat. It’s been a long time coming! Looking forward to it.
Absolutely, man! It’s been in the works for some time! Of course, the main reason we have you here, is to chat about the events that have transpired for The Amenta since February’s ‘Revelator’ album was released and the upcoming 2 Track EP ‘Solipschism’ and slew of Australian live shows planned for September. Let’s start with ‘Revelator’, Tim. As far as I can tell, there was a decided expectant vibe around your return after 8 years. Firstly, did you expect anything like that prior to the release and what have you made of the response to the album since its release?
Pope: We had no idea what to expect with 'Revelator'. As you say, it had been 8 years since we had really been active. I think we left on a high. 'Flesh is Heir', our last album, was received well and the shows back then were some of our biggest, but you don’t know if that kind of goodwill will hang around, especially not for 8 years. We knew, quite early on, that 'Revelator' would be a special album for us. I don’t think we have ever been as excited by our demos as we were for that album. but we were also conscious that it was going to be a very different kind of release than anything we had done before and there was no guarantee that people would respond to it. There was a very big chance that it was a bridge too far for some people. I’ll be honest, while that’s a scary prospect, it also made it the most exciting direction we could take. Churning out the same old music would be boring! You have to live on the edge.
We were completely blown away by the response to the album. We released the ‘Sere Money’ clip first, to give people a taste, and we deliberately picked a song that would confuse people who were expecting only the blast beats of old. Of course, there are always the people who say the first album is the best and everything after it is shit, but thankfully the overwhelming reaction was extremely positive and excited. With the release of the subsequent singles and then the album, I think people proved to be extremely open minded and open to the idea of a The Amenta album that played with tension rather than just ripping your head off. We’ve always been of the belief that real “extreme” is music that is challenging, not music that is just fast or music that is heavy or whatever. We were challenged by this album and that’s what made it exciting. We were excited to challenge the listeners too, and it seems that people were very much up for the challenge.
About those 8 years – your ‘hiatus’ – some people in the scene thought you were done and dusted. Dead. In fact, this was pretty much the plan. You refused to repeat yourselves, so you put it all on hold to find more inspiration. But 8 years?? When did you know that ‘The Amenta’ was going to return?
Pope: To be honest, when we decided to step away from live shows, we had no idea what we would be doing with the band. We deliberately left the message very ambiguous because we were unsure. We started working quickly on new music, it just wasn’t going to be The Amenta. This is something that we’ve tried a few times before, not consciously, but it seems to be where we go after a big project like an album. After our first album, 'Occasus', Erik and I decided to start a side band to explore some other ideas. After a little while, we started work again on The Amenta and those ideas got plundered, reworked, and revamped and became the seeds of the n0n (2008) album. This time, after 'Flesh is Heir' and all that touring, Erik and I started writing for a new project. We even had a name for it and several very rough demos. I think this is a subconscious attempt to buy ourselves some freedom from our own pressure to sound a certain way. A new project has no history, so it is easy to try all sorts of weird shit without feeling like you are straying too far from the past.
After a few months of this, we realized that our hearts were still very much full of The Amenta, and concurrently, we realized that many of those ideas could, with a slight change of instrumentation, become the seeds of an interesting new direction for us. I think we started really working on the music for 'Revelator', as The Amenta, in 2016. From there, it was a tortured journey to get the material to the place you hear now. We demoed songs, tore them apart, rewrote them, and tried all sorts of different techniques to find the ideas that were the most exciting and the most “new”. I think we knew in 2016 that the band would return in some form, it was just a matter of working out what form.
But this seems to be the M.O for The Amenta, Tim. You have mentioned that you want to keep yourselves excited and inspired. It’s been this way since day one of the band. Can you comment on this mindset as opposed to churning out albums ever 2 years or so?
Pope: Exactly right! I think it’s something to do with the way we are wired. Music doesn’t come easy to us. There are exceptions, of course, but generally we don’t sit down for a weekend and bash out a few songs. If we were to quickly knock out music without thinking, I am certain that it would be “stock”, in the delightfully phrasing of Lars Ulrich. If we were forced to go through all the heartache and hard fucking work that an album from The Amenta requires and the material was stock, I guarantee that we would get bored and go to the pub instead. For us to work as hard as we do on the music, it has to be inspiring and exciting for us. We’ve got to want to chase the crazy ideas to see where they will take us.
I think that chase is the key ingredient for everything we do. I believe that there are some musicians who get a charge out of emulation but that doesn’t do anything at all for us. It’s not repugnant, it’s just fucking boring. The best ideas are the ones that are almost frightening. As in, “Are you sure we can do that?” Those ideas are the ones we love. You get a few of those and the long slog of an album becomes an exciting, exhilarating ride. It’s the old saw: quality versus quantity. I’d rather release less music and stand by it all than release a shit load of music just to get back on the road. Touring is fun, but it’s also crushing. You want to make sure you’re promoting something that means something to you!
Right, so given the time frame between 'Revelator' and your previous 2013 album ‘Flesh is Heir’ – released on Listenable, when did you land a deal with your current label, Debemur Morti Productions? Did they come to you? Were they thrilled to have you on their roster?
Pope: That happened very late in the game. After 'Flesh is Heir', we’d completed our 3-album deal with Listenable and, as we were in hiatus, we didn’t really chase any label interest. We kept in contact with Listenable, obviously, but we deliberately didn’t take on any pressure. We wrote and recorded, mixed and mastered the album without a label. We didn’t know what it would be, so we didn’t know who to approach! Once the album was completed, we made a (very) shortlist of the labels we liked, and Debemur Morti Productions were right at the top of the list. They have a very interesting roster that includes strange bands like Manes from Norway as well as Blut Aus Nord and other “avant-garde” black metal bands, so we thought it would be a good fit. We sent the album to the labels we liked, and a few came back quickly with interest. This was around about when the pandemic first hit, so we’re thankful that labels were still interest in taking a chance on a weird metal band from Australia. Debemur Morti Productions was one of the labels that came back almost immediately, and we were blown away by their enthusiasm and their “art first” mentality to being a label. I hope they are as thrilled as we are.
Brilliant work! Almost an aligning of the planets, so to speak - Debemur ‘fits’ a band like The Amenta so well! Back in the day, especially major label wise, bands used to have a ‘deadline’ with album turn arounds – I guess DMP weren’t too demanding on you given the way you work? And just on that whole ‘deadline’ thing, do labels still ask for that from some bands?
Pope: We have been lucky, both with Listenable and Debemur Morti, that we haven’t ever really felt that pressure. Our method of music creation is effective, but it isn’t efficient. I think (or at least hope) the labels realize that we’ll give them the best possible quality release if we can do it our way, properly. Debemur Morti especially, from what we see from our time with them so far, are just interested in working with bands they like to make great dark art. It’s not about churning out releases to pay the rent on their 7 houses in the country, it’s about working with bands to make ugly music, so I don’t think they will be too demanding in that sense.
I’m not sure if that pressure is still a thing. I think it’s probably tied to record advances. The more a label invests, the more pressure they’ll put on to recoup their investment. We’ve always used the advance to mix and master, rather than pay for studio time, so we don’t get money until the bastard is almost finished. I can imagine it would be different if a label had to pay us at the start of the process! I am sure there are bands, especially bigger bands, whose releases and success drive a label and allows them to pay their rent, who are under pressure to deliver. For us underground extreme metal bands, I don’t think labels are sweating too much on the income they get from us.
So we’ve had plenty of time to digest ‘Revelator’ since its February release, but from your perspective what’s changed about your sound since ‘Flesh’? For me, whilst is still got your dark intensity about it, it seems to be more dynamic with lots of post-punk pensive tension and dread creeping through...care to comment on that?
Pope: I reckon you are 100% spot on with the tension and dread. To be fair, I think those aspects have always been part of our play book, but the more aggressive “brutal” side tended to hold sway. It wasn’t a conscious decision to let those elements shine more this time, it was probably a few factors that drove it. The most important is because we’re always chasing the new idea, like we spoke about earlier. We’ve done the blast beats. When someone comes up with one of those riffs, it better be pretty fucking special to make our ears prick up. If it’s just a run of the mill blackened death metal riff with blast beats and double kick, then who the fuck cares? We felt like we had done the fast, aggressive thing, so the ideas that were exciting to us were the more tense and eerie ideas, and that’s what lead us into writing for a “new” project, which was just a trojan horse for the new The Amenta ideas.
I’m glad you hear the post-punk side of things. That’s something I hear too, but not a lot of people have picked up on it. Extreme metal is often very guitar driven. A lot of what we call post-punk is more rhythm section driven and that was something that we were interested in for this album. There were songs that were written around bass lines and drum parts, rather than guitar riffs. Guitars have always been a noise-source for us, not just a riff generator, so it felt exciting to lean into that aspect more. Let the guitars be the effected, ambient side of things, where the keyboards would normally sit.
I think, fundamentally what we are always trying to do is just create the extreme metal that we find exciting. I don’t see a difference in ethos between what we were doing in 2004 with 'Occasus' and what we have done in 2021 with 'Revelator'. They are both driven by the idea of creating the perfect extreme metal album, for the band for that time. Obviously, who we are, and how we play, will change over time, so the aesthetics of the albums will change. but it is the same fundamental impulse that has driven all of them.
And how much has Cain Cressell had to do with this? His vocals are so varied across the album – clean to extreme and all in between.
Pope: Cain has been a huge part of the band since he joined in 2009, and I think that his work with us has a huge effect on the sounds of 'Revelator', vocally and instrumentally. When we first started working with Cain, it became obvious very quickly that he had a complementary artistic vision to that of me and Erik. Where we come from death and black metal, via noise, post-punk etc., Cain started from death and black metal and brings in horror influences, as well as more traditional heavy metal. That’s obviously an extreme simplification but gives a basic understanding of the way our inspirations meld into The Amenta as it appears publicly.
I think our music has probably morphed a bit because we know Cain will do incredible things with a certain feel in music, which is that creepy vibe that I think you’re picking up on. I think we’ve gradually been moving our music in that direction. Definitely the way I write lyrics has changed because I am writing for Cain’s voice, certain phrases and words will resonate more from him than others.
Cain has always brought that additional lift to all our demos. We write and record almost exclusively instrumentally at first, then Cain gets the tracks and demos some ideas over the top. With Revelator', I remember one particular demo that changed the way we saw the album. It was a very early demo for the track 'Twined Towers'. Cain’s first demo had this creepy falsetto backing vocal, and for the rest of us, it was an immediate recognition of the correct way to go. That encouraged us to try some stranger things musically, which in turn inspired Cain to try different vocals ideas. As we demoed and kept changing, the album got closer and closer to what you now hear. Cain is a huge part of that process of our music.
That’s a great insight to Cain’s involvement, Tim – he certainly has his own unique style! Moving on to the whole recording of ‘Revelator’, can you comment on how this album came together, logistically? The writing and recording process. I ask because I know most of you (other than you and Erik) live in different states. Distance was clearly a factor. Was there ever a time where the whole band was in the room together, during this?
Pope: Distance has always been a difficulty for this band. Even back in 2004, we had a drummer (David Haley) who lived in Hobart, then later Melbourne and Mark Bevan, our vocalist at the time, lived in Newcastle. Getting together to rehearse was difficult, but Erik and I lived 30 minutes from each other so we could write and strategize. Over the years, there has been a drift of the band further and further away. We thought it was at its worst when we recruited Cain, who lives in Perth, but we’ve been working with him since 2009, so we’ve always been working with distance there. For 'Revelator', Erik and I were both in NSW for the start of the process. I have moved out of Sydney but was working there, so I would go to his place after work a few nights a week and that is how we knocked together the original demos of the 'Revelator' tracks. After that stage was finished, Erik up and moved to London, so that increased our distance difficulties drastically! We used a lot of Google Drive and Dropbox to share files and works in progress. We’re lucky that we all have our own studios so we can record our own parts and send them to each other to check out and critique.
Even when Erik was living in London however, there were still a few occasions where we could get together. Erik flew back to Sydney a few times for work, so we flew Cain over at the same time and booked some studios to do some vocal demoing and preproduction. We drank a lot, but we also got a lot done, so even though there were only a few opportunities, it was enough. Erik later moved back to Australia, in the middle of mixing the album, just as the borders were closing at the start of the pandemic. To make things difficult, however, he moved to Adelaide. So currently, The Amenta has members in New South Wales, Victoria, Adelaide, and Western Australia. We’re working on some things now, but it’s work that has an earlier genesis. It will be very interesting to see how new projects go with this distance.
Christ, 4 different states and you’re able to conjure such a beast of an album – I applaud the perseverance! Let’s chat about the visual side of the band. You’ve also put together 3 music videos for the tracks ‘Sere Money’, ‘Psoriastasis’, and ‘An Epoch Ellipsis’. You obviously believe that the visual element of The Amenta is just as important as the music. There’s a thread/theme running through your whole presentation. Care to expand on how those videos came together and the importance of that visual element?
Pope: You’re spot on. The visual aspect is as important as the music. I think it’s important to present an “artwork” in its entirety. An artist isn’t just responsible for the artwork, they are responsible for how that artwork is presented. I’m a firm believer that an artwork isn’t the concrete, physical creation. The artwork is the thing that happens in the mind of the viewer/listener. Any aspect that the artist can control to further immerse the viewer/listener in the artwork should be addressed with equal importance.
Most of the videos, as well as the photos, were all driven by Cain. He had an old friend of his, Garth Hurley, who he’d happened to reconnect with at around the time we were working on the album. They used to make fucked up art together years ago and Cain suggested that they might come up with something cool together. Erik and I have enough faith in Cain’s taste and vision to let him run with it. We would have our regular calls and Cain would tell us about the crazy shit they were doing, breaking into abandoned houses and almost setting them alight. Hiring ballet dancers to perform in a field. Borrowing relative’s newborn babies for a few hours. Insane shit. Once Erik and I saw the rough cut of ‘Sere Money’, we knew that Cain and Garth had something special. They filmed the entire thing, as well as the ‘Psoriastasis’ clip, during the pandemic, which took a huge amount of logistical work. Luckily Perth, at that point was more open than other states so they could congregate in blood spattered clearings with ballet dancers, gruesome masks and newborns.
The ‘An Epoch Ellipsis’ clip was also filmed during the pandemic. We wanted a full band clip, but we couldn’t get into the same state as all the borders were shut. With the help of local crews of lighting and camera operators, we were able to dress up areas that we could still access and film them before we weren’t allowed to congregate anymore.
Yep, the problems of working around Covid restrictions, ffs! And as we are interviewing for Heaviest Art, here today, it would be remiss of me not to bring up the very interesting and striking art work for ‘Revelator’ – I believe he artwork was created by the Metastazis, who has done work for so many bands such as Psycroptic, Blut Aus Nord, Behemoth, and Ulver….Tell me, how does The Amenta come to be in his line of sight and just how did he come up with the visual cover art for ‘Revelator’?
Pope: We’ve always been big fans of Metastazis’ work, not least that he doesn’t have just one style. His art seems to be very focused around the band, rather than a retrofit of work he already has. We set out to work with Valnoir of Metastazis around 'Flesh is Heir'. We had some conversations with him, but it didn’t work out. If you check out the Metastazis website, it has a disclaimer before you can access any of the art, basically saying that he doesn’t take direction and if bands don’t like it, they can get fucked. In our first conversation, we were very strong on what we wanted. He told us to fuck off. We loved it! This time, we joked about that time and worked together very well. What I like about Valnoir’s approach is that he asks questions about the music and the lyrics. We sent him some lyrics and talked through themes and then he came back with a few ideas that were his interpretation of those themes.
As soon as we saw the heart icon idea it immediately seemed correct. He created a 3D model of the artwork so we could try different angles and was very open to playing with different ideas to get something that worked for us. I think he seized on a couple of key ideas from the lyrics and extrapolated them out. I believe the power of both lyrics and visual art comes from the individual interpretation, so I don’t want to dig into it too much, but you obviously have a heart which is a symbol of life, and emotion. At its summit, there is a tower, possibly the Tower of Babel, which represents one of the major themes of the album. The whole thing is protected by barbed wire, birds of prey and spikes. To me, it has religious connotations, which tie in very well with certain aspects of the lyrics.
It is an amazing piece of work! Finally, I’d like to bring up the mask concept that has been developed for this album? I believe this was Cain’s inspiration. Clearly this has a specific link to the lyrical theme and overall posture of ‘Revelator’. How did Cain broach this idea with you and what it might represent to the listener?
Pope: The masks started as a cover concept idea that Cain was playing with. One of the key things we tried with this entire album, musically, lyrically and visually, was to let our subconscious dictate direction as much as possible. From what I understand, one of Cain’s techniques for visuals is to read the lyrics and then listen to the music, shut his eyes and allow images to suggest themselves. One of the images he had was of a man sitting in a luxury apartment, wearing a mask of a fucked-up face through which you could see the original face. Based on that idea, Cain started exploring the mask creation and worked with a bunch of talented people to work out the best way to cast masks of his face for use. There was a lot of trial and error to get the masks that you see.
The first time we discussed using it for a band concept was when we were brainstorming ideas for band photos. Personally, I hate band photos in general. They are usually just a bunch of tough dudes standing in an abandoned warehouse (a crime of which we have been guilty). The band photos that I like are the ones that contribute to the entire frame of the artwork, that add an additional tension to the entire package. So, when we were brainstorming, Cain mentioned that he had these masks and that we could do something cool with them.
The effect of the masks for us personally, is to separate the music from our day to day lives. It is like slipping into the skin of a character and it allows us to embody the musical character, which is really an aspect of ourselves that has been emphasized. I hope it has a similar effect for the viewer. Ideally it allows enough of a fracture from the everyday that the music can lift off from the quotidian. I think all art needs that space from life. It must exist outside of the everyday in order to have the room to be interpreted and be strange. I hope the masks help the listener achieve that space. I don’t think our ugly mugs would have helped. Cain’s fucked up face is much better.
Works a treat from my perspective. Adds to the whole weird individual vibe you guys have built. This leads us to another reason why we are chatting today – the just releases 2 track EP ‘Solipschism’, which has been billed as the ‘two missing keys’ to the puzzle which is 'Revelator' – firstly where were these tracks at the time of releasing 'Revelator' and secondly can you give some insight as to why these two tracks now ‘complete’ the album?
Pope: Both tracks have been around for a long time. The title track was originally slated to be on 'Revelator' and was only removed late in the piece. When we write albums, we are generally just writing song by song, not thinking too much about the grander picture. It’s only when it comes to the end of the process that we start to look at how all the pieces fit together. I think track listing is extremely important. You have all these songs, which are excellent in a standalone sense, but the key is to find the order to put them so that the songs complement each other. A correctly arranged album is more than the sum of its parts. The right combination can really lift everything.
We spent a long time working on the order of the songs for 'Revelator' and it eventually became clear that the best possible track listing had to lose ‘Solipschism’. We loved the song, but every time we slotted it into the run of the album, it didn’t work. Not because of any issue with quality in the song itself, merely because the songs around it worked best in a certain way and order, and required certain songs to follow them. We had completely mixed ‘Solipschism’, but we pulled it from the album just before the whole thing was mastered.
‘Labourinth’ is another track that was around at the same time. We’ve always liked having instrumental, ambient tracks on our albums. Back when we first started, we were really inspired by the way Morbid Angel and Akercocke would do it. It made the album into a journey, not just a collection of metal songs. There was a push and pull of all the elements. So, all our albums have had instrumental tracks in some way. For 'Revelator', we created 5 instrumental tracks to choose from. Because of the process of finding the perfect way to fit all our songs together, we only ended up using one track, called ‘Wonderlost’. Of the remaining instrumentals, ‘Labourinth’ was always my favourite. When it came to decided what we would do with the poor little red-headed stepchild, ‘Solipschism’, it felt right to include 'Labourinth'.
And from my perspective, they are both very dark, moody, dub-inflected soundscapes with eerie distorted elements – so very ‘The Amenta’ in their delivery but also very surprising in their stark progressiveness – especially the title track? Any visuals coming out with this release?
Pope: I’m glad you see them as progressive. They are both interesting new directions for us, I think. Who knows if we will go further down that direction in the future, but it was certainly an exciting avenue to explore at the time. We don’t have any additional visuals for these tracks as such, but there are some more surprises coming, including one that I think will blow people away. Possibly the most confronting thing we have done. No timeline on that yet, but it is complete, just waiting for the right time.
Right, can’t wait to hear/see that! Also, I would hate to suggest that these tracks represent the next Amenta incarnation, because you guys are rather unpredictable and consciously ever changing in your approach, but for the sake of pushing the issue, are they what we can look forward to down the track?
Pope: I’m almost as in the dark about what our future music will sound like as you are! We honestly don’t have any set goal before we start writing music, it’s entirely about chasing the spark of inspiration wherever they take us. It’s about finding the ideas that seem exciting enough to explore, and as we’ve talked about, the way we are wired means that the ideas we find exciting are the ideas that are new to us. We’ve just started mucking around with some ideas of new tracks, and it is very early days, but already I think we’ve found a potential new field to explore. The thing with all of our songs is that they go through a significant process of change and constructive destruction from the initial idea to the demo, to the recorded song and then finally to the mix. The ideas we have now could sound completely different by the time they get to the end process. At this stage, I would suggest that we would be moving in a noisy, aggressive direction, but it honestly could change tomorrow. If we have a cool idea with an acoustic guitar and flugelhorn duet, then that might be the new way. Who fucking knows?
Are you actually writing for a new album, now? What I mean is, will we have to wait another 8 years? 😊
Pope: I don’t think what we are currently writing will necessarily be the new album. We have one more project in mind before tackling another full length. We’re working on a few ideas and tidying up a few recordings for something else later, but as soon as that is done, we’ll be starting on the new one straight away. As you’ve mentioned, it’s always been a long time in between drinks for us but we’re determined to get another album out in a much shorter time. Once again, we’ve thrown distance into the middle of everything, so we’ve got to work out how we will write together, when in the past Erik and I have often written in the same room, but I am sure that won’t be an issue. If it takes another 8 years, you have my permission and instruction to hunt me down and shoot me. Put me out of my misery.
Haha! Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that! The 2 new tracks come 6 months after ‘Revelator' – on 7 inch vinyl, too! How many copies have been issued for this EP? You’d expect them to sell out, Tim?
Pope: It’s a very limited 7”. Only 250 copies world-wide, of which we took 100 for sale in Australia, ideally for our tour and the rest are distributed around the world through Debemur Morti Recordings. The pre-orders on the 7” have been excellent, so I have no doubt it will sell out shortly. We liked the idea of something super limited, for the die-hards. I’m not a big collector, but the recent resurgence of vinyl has piqued my dormant interests. Seeing our releases on vinyl is a cool charge. For many years, it was CDs only for us, and that was cool, now digital has swallowed everything. The fact that people are buying vinyl, which lets us present large-scale artwork etc. is fucking great. I am sure that the die-hards will buy them up pretty quickly, so if anyone is keen, I’d suggest checking out Direct Merch, Bandcamp and the Debemur Morti shops to ensure you get one.
I mention the 6-month lead up to this EP for another reason of course, and that is, most importantly, the return of The Amenta to the live scene with a bunch of Australian dates that, until just a few days ago, was set to kick off with Perth boys Earth Rot, starting in September. We’ve since learnt that that has come to a grinding Covid-affected halt! Billed as the ‘Black Revelation’ tour, I was so looking forward to catching you at the Brisbane gig - you must be absolutely gutted about this news, Tim?
Pope: It was a real blow to us to have to cancel this tour. It’s been so long since we’ve toured in any capacity, and it was something we were all looking forward to. We were really stoked to be touring with the guys in Earth Rot, who are absolutely killer, and it would have been great to see them live. Not to mention, we’d lined up some incredible support bands. It’s such a shame that we won’t get to do these shows, they would have been huge.
There was a massive amount of work to get us to the point where we were ready. We hadn’t played in the same room together since 2014, so we flew to South Australia, where Erik and Sam Bean from Werewolves, The Berzerker, The Antichrist Imperium et al (who was to play bass for us on the tour) were based to rehearse. We did that a couple of times, and it was amazing, just like old days. It was great to hang out and drink with the guys again. We did a huge amount of tech work to get guitar effects, lighting, visuals and the rest of the show to work perfectly. To have to cancel after all that work is a real shit thing, but there’s no other option at this point unfortunately. We can’t get band members into other states and, even if we could, it would be irresponsible to do it just for death metal at this point. We’re hoping we can reschedule in the future, but in the meantime, we are going to use the downtime to keep writing and recording music so we can whittle down that 8 year wait time!
Really hoping that reschedule happens, man! Further to live representation of your work, clearly as the final piece of the visual puzzle, your live representation is an important cog in your arsenal. Can you give us an insight to the importance of playing live and how you hope to capture ‘Revelator’ in the live setting?
Pope: I always think that there are two bands in The Amenta. The recorded band is a serious, studied undertaking. I think our music process is almost sculptural and there is a lot of consideration paid to balance and push and pull, whereas the live band is total feral chaos. They really capture two different sides of the band and I think it is a really great opportunity to show a different side to the tracks from 'Revelator'. No one wants to go to a show to see a band sound the same as on the recording. You want that derangement, the x factor that makes it something new for you. Otherwise, you’d just sit at home and listen to the album without having to smell other people. The songs from 'Revelator' that we have played live so far have seemed to up the swagger, but also the venom. Cain, obviously, is an incredible front man and he brings a craziness to his performance in a live setting which I think elevates the songs for people. I still get chills sometimes when I see him onstage. The versions of the songs we have been playing are necessarily stripped down, there are so many parts and weird guitar sounds and things that can’t be replicated with a five-piece band, but the feralness of our live band really brings an energy which more than makes up for it.
Fortunately, you did get to play live just recently. You played in Tasmania in early August at the Dark Mofo Festival – how did they play out for you? Good response from the fans?
Pope: I’m so glad that we were able to do at least one show this year, and for that to be the Dark Mofo show was perfect. We have a long history with Hobart, having recorded there and traveled there many times in the early days to rehearse with Dave. We know a lot of people there, so it was great to catch up with some of them. The show itself was excellent and a lot of that is due to the incredible work of Robin Stone, who jumped in to play drums on about two week’s notice after Dave got locked down in Melbourne. We were happy with the performance and the response seemed to be amazing. It was great to see some familiar faces in the audience, people we’ve known for years who came out to see the show, and to share the stage with such killer bands such as Disentomb, Pod People, and the legendary Misery was incredible. Playing to a seated audience was a strange experience, but even seated we could see that people were still getting into it.
Wtf? Misery played that gig?? Wow! Despite our current live ‘hiatus’ in Australia, we’ve seen overseas festivals start to open up again, Tim. The UK’s Bloodstock just finished. How do you see the rest of the world responding to this in terms of running their own large venue gigs? International travel seems a way off, but just maybe, Bloodstock is proof that we can win the war? Then again, it could prove to be a massive super spreader?
Pope: I certainly hope we can win. I’m personally still a bit concerned about the spread at festivals like that, but once vaccination levels get up, I don’t see why we can’t have festivals. From what I have seen, it seems that Bloodstock was run well, so it will be interesting to see if there is any fallout from it. I hope not, because it would be amazing to get back overseas and play some shows. We’ve never been one of those bands who have relied on the festival circuit for income, so I imagine it’s a whole different thing for those bands and I imagine there is a real desire to get these things up and running as soon as possible. I hope that they are run safely and it’s not a “one step forward, two steps back” scenario.
Amen to that! We’re all super frustrated fans at the moment. Not seeing live bands fucks with my DNA! Ok, time to wrap it up. Tim, it’s been a pleasure and a long time in getting this thing done! I’m glad it’s happened. Care to leave any final words for the readers?
Pope: Thanks again, KMaN! I’m glad we could finally talk! For anyone reading who is interested in off-kilter, dark and tense music, check out our recent album 'Revelator' and if you dig that, get in quick to pick up one of the remaining copies of the 'Solipschism' 7”. You can get them from Direct Merch in Australia, Debemur Morti Productions in EU and USA, Indie Merch in the USA and, of course, Bandcamp.
Solipschism and Revelator are out now via Debemur Morti Productions. Get them HERE.