Interview with extreme metal gods The Amenta.
Interview with extreme metal gods The Amenta.
Interview with The Amenta.
Timothy Pope: Thank you very much for the interview! “Revelator” come about through the same process that birthed all our albums.
When we sit down to write, we tend not to have a laid-out plan of what we want to achieve. Instead, we improvise and experiment with ideas until something clicks and makes the hair stand up on the back of our necks.
When we find that feeling, the process is then to chase it down, to see if we can keep that spark alive, until a song is finished. I think, because of the kind of people we are, the ideas that tend to give us that spark are ideas that are new. I find that when we come up with ideas that are like what we have done before, they are boring to us and so we don’t pursue them. As a result, all our albums are a natural progression from each other. Each time we write we are writing against the last album on a subconscious level. The concept of the album was discovered naturally in the process of writing it. Each song starts from a clean slate, and we are just looking for songs that are exciting in the progression that they are written. Later we arrange them into a tracklist that presents the songs in the best possible way.
Because of this process, and because the albums we love are varied and odd, there are several different ideas across the course of “Revelator”. I think the common theme is that we wanted to explore tension and unease, but there are different ways to achieve that. “Silent Twin” is a song that tries to find that tension with acoustic guitar and piano. The same tension is found in “Parse Over” but that tries to find it in a doom kind of context. In the middle of the album is the “beating heart”, “Twined Towers”, that finds uneasiness in contrasting dynamics. We found these sounds as we always do, through experimentation, trial and error, and a vicious editing knife.
Lyrically were their particular themes you were looking to focus on?. Is one track personally and particularly more emotional than the rest; because the album drips in emotion to me as a listener.
Timothy Pope: The process for the lyrics of “Revelator” was very different from the one that I used for previous albums and, as a result, there aren’t themes that I have consciously imposed. In the past, I wrote to a theme. The theme came first and then the lyrics were written to serve the theme. This time I wanted to reverse that, so instead of imposing a theme consciously, I wanted the themes to be revealed over the course of the writing. This time I carried a book around with me for several years that I wrote small phrases, puns, occasional couplets and plays on words as they occurred to me. These small chunks of text, because they arose naturally in my day-to-day life, tend to be referring to my thoughts or obsessions at the time. Taken together they are almost a map of the themes that plague my subconscious. The great thing about writing them over such a long time, is that I gradually forgot the original meaning of the chunks of text, so they became opaquer to me. When it came time to pull the lyrics together, I found chunks of these words and started to collage them together. When two phrases, often written years apart, seemed to come alive when placed next to each other (by suggesting a theme or a meaning, or even just an interesting tension between words) then that became a basis for a lyric. They were assembled to suggest a larger meaning but hidden within these larger meanings are all the original themes that are half-forgotten.
For the listener, I hope this operates almost like a Wikipedia page. It’s about one thing, but there are several hyperlinked words that you can click through to explore other references, which have their own sub-channels to explore. The lyrics are meant to be interpreted, exactly how you would approach abstract art. I don’t want to give my meaning; I am more interested in the meanings you, the listener, find. I think abstract art, and lyrics like this can become like a mirror. When our brain takes this information and tries to impose meaning, it’s our minds that become reflected back at us. We change the item we are observing with our preconceptions and obsessions that we are imposing on the world we view. I find that shit very interesting.
Originality and indeed uniqueness seems very rare in most genres, but even in metal, there can be a definite sense of cookie-cutter like emulation. What has always been refreshing with your band is not only does it not sit in one lane of a genre, but it appears to refuse to be typecast in any way over the various creative albums that have been released; particularly the latest incarnation. Why is being your own pilot or guide, or more so to be your own genre so important?
Timothy Pope: We don’t really think about it in terms of genre, and I don’t think most artists do. We’ve never been a Death Metal band, or a Black Metal one. And certainly not a fucking Industrial band. We write music for ourselves, to keep ourselves inspired and excited. And, as I mentioned above, the ideas that excite as are the new ideas. The uniqueness is a fundamental part of who we are as people and artists and can’t be separated from the process of creating the music. It is the process. Having never been in one of those bands, I don’t know, but I expect that bands who are “cookie-cutter” have a very different process. I imagine that the excitement they get is from emulation. If they write a riff that sounds like Cannibal Corpse, then a light goes off in their brain that says “Yes!” and they are rewarded for emulation. We’re just not wired that way. We get that light in our brain when we are challenging ourselves, and so we are rewarded for pushing ourselves into new areas.
I think that kind of art is important because genres are criteria that have their uses, but that use is entirely “after the fact”. A genre is useful for a listener, or a critic, to quickly sum up the content of the art so they can use this verbal shorthand to give others a generic impression of the sound. But when we think about a review as an example, if the genre was actually an all-encompassing term a review would only need to be that genre descriptor with no other information. But obviously a review goes into a lot of detail, because while that shorthand term gives us an idea, we are more interested in the way the art escapes from that descriptor. A review spends time telling people how that term “doesn’t apply” as well as how it does. So even after the fact, a genre descriptor is only limited in its use. If used by the artist before or during the creation of the art, then it can cause a serious limitation of expression. If I got to write a “death metal” song, I am, consciously or not, trying to write as close as possible to the limitation of that genre so that it fits within its narrow borders. And if I do that, then I am not allowing myself to being open to inspiration and the paths outside of that limited genre. If everyone did that, it would be fucking boring. Music would be a chore. Fuck that.
We certainly have applauded your creativity on this release, but man it is so heavy in tone, the guitars and overall sound is very in your face and almost suffocates you in its heaviness. Fill us in on how this was achieved, be it the writing, the production, the combination of both or anything else, it’s damn intriguing!
Timothy Pope: Thank you very much! I’m very glad it had that effect. I think much of that comes down to the incredible mix and master of the album. The album was mixed by Erik Miehs, our guitarist, who has mixed everything we have released since 2011’s “V01D” release. Erik has always made incredible mixes for us, but I think this is his best yet. It’s dense as fuck but also clear and atmospheric. I feel sorry for Erik, our songs have so many tracks and so many bits of detail that could easily get lost in a less sensitive mix, but Erik always pulls it together. This time around he used some incredible tricks to add to the nastiness and atmospheric nature of the album. When it came to mixing, Erik took a lot of the raw tracks that we had recorded them and then passed them through a chain of guitar effects before folding them back into the mix and, as a result, there is a staggering amount of detail in the mix that reveals itself with repeated listens. Vocals run through guitar tremolos, synths through distortion and reverb. Erik’s mix took our basic tracks (which were great as they were) and added that additional special sauce that took the album to a new level. And then we were very lucky to have the album mastered by Maor Appelbaum, who took that mix and gave it a dynamic, clear, and heavy sheen.
Obviously key to all of this are the songs and the sounds we used to achieve the songs. The sounds that really excited us this time around where less about the blast and speed (though of course, that is still there). It was more about the tension and atmosphere. We wanted to have songs that were haunting, not just aggressive. Part of this was about dialing back some of the speed of songs, so that we could find the perfect tempo where maximum power is achieved. People think that fast is preferable, but often when you drop a tempo the song becomes meaner and more intense. We tried to find that balance. Sound wise, we used our usual tricks but this time we wanted to approach it from an even more organic angle. We used a lot of room microphones on the drums for natural reverb, instead of computer-based synths I tried to use more “real world” noise to generate sounds and guitars were run through more pedals than was healthy so there is a massive variety of sounds. I think that all contributes to that tense and claustrophobic feel.
What inspires you to drive this band on? Is it mostly personal hooks or drivers, or is it literature, film or other sources?
Timothy Pope: The primary inspiration is just keeping ourselves excited. We’re self-sufficient in that way. I find the other guys inspiring. They’ll come up with an idea that will spark that intense excitement for me that inspires me to push myself to try to add to the idea or come up with a complimentary one of my own. Of course, we’re all inspired by a variety of different art. We’re all avid listeners and appreciators of all different artforms. Half of our conversation is music recommendations; we’re always looking for exciting new music. The cool thing about this band is that all of us have completely different tastes, so if you were to look at the pool of the art that inspires us there would be some cross over but also huge areas where it was completely unique to the person. I know there is a shitload of things I am into that would not interest the other guys, and vice versa, but when we bring it all in together, I can be inspired by their ideas as they have internalized their inspiration and allowed it to come from them naturally.
For me personally, I am constantly looking for new inspirational sources. I read a lot, so a lot of my inspiration comes from literature. On this album, certain books were very inspirational, especially when considering the lyrical processes. The list is enormous, but I would name Ulysses and Finnegans Wake by James Joyce as well as The World as Will and Representation by Arthur Schopenhauer as three of the most inspirational. But there are hundreds of others. Music-wise, I think Erik and I were very inspired by 90’s English death doom, like the Peaceville 3’s early albums.
The Amenta is primarily a music force, but art and music are a perfect intersection when done correctly or in the hands of an actual artisan. What are your thoughts on this? Why is album art and video direction actually really damn important? And your video Sere Money, it’s a dark, wondrous work that just grabs you by the knackers, yet stimulates the underground art freak in us all…add some colour to the story beyond this glorious beast of a video?
Timothy Pope: I couldn’t agree more. I think it must be remembered that we are presenting an artwork that operates on more than one level. It isn’t just audio information. Humans experience the world through their ears but also their eyes, not to mention the mouth and nose, the skin and, most importantly, the mind which is the filter that takes all that input and puts together an “experience”. As artists, we should be trying to provide as much information as possible to those senses. I think about it like a painting. There is the painting itself, which must be of good quality in itself, but then the painting is put in a frame. That frame must complement the painting. A bad frame will damage the perception of the artwork. A good frame will highlight certain qualities. Then that frame is placed in a gallery. Where is it placed? What is around it? Where is the light source? All these things change the way we perceive the artwork. If we can control other aspects of the sensory appreciation of our music, we can provide a better, and more true, experience for the listener. Album art, videos, interviews, photos and now fucking social media, are all key to this.
I’m glad you enjoyed the ‘Sere Money’ video! That video was put together by Cain Cressall, our vocalist, and a good friend of his, Garth Hurley (www.crtfilms.com.au). Cain’s process, from what I understand, was a mirror of the subconscious process that informed the lyrics. We have a brief discussion about meanings but we both agreed that his interpretation was more interesting as it fits the concept of the lyrics, that must be interpreted. He apparently listened to the album in the dark and “dreamed” scenes and ideas which he would then take to Garth and they would work out how to film things. As a result, I think the imagery of the clip is like a fever dream. They are connected, but at a level that is not conscious. It makes sense, but you aren’t sure why or how. It’s perfect. Cain and Garth filmed this during the whole Covid situation in Perth. They had to pick and choose their times so they could actually be out filming and bring together such a huge cast and crew. From what I understand it was a logistical nightmare. Erik and I would talk to Cain and hear about all these shoots and the issues he was having, but we didn’t see any footage until the edit was pretty much finalized. We were absolutely blown away by the result these guys pulled off.
band and these damn masks…an often-asked question, but man it adds an edge to
a really extreme approach to music and it doesn’t act as a distraction.
Thoughts on the warped mask darkness that surrounds the band?
Timothy Pope: That was another one of Cain’s innovations. He has an eye for sick and twisted visual ideas! That started out as a concept for a potential cover art, he had an idea for an image of a man wearing a mask of his face, but still seeing the real face underneath, so you had this layering of faces. He worked with a few really talented people to create the mask of his own face and, as soon as we saw it, we saw the potential to add it to other visual aspects of the release. The Amenta has never really been about the people involved, we’ve always tried to make the music the focus, which is why we went under pseudonyms for a while, and band photos have tended to either be obscured by effects or even missing entirely as it was for the “Flesh is Heir” album cycle. Speaking personally, I find it more effective to have a persona that I can step into for the band. For me, it feels like it brings the music closer, and makes it more real because you can step away from the real world with all its stress and problems which drag art down into the dirt. Having these masks allows us to present characters behind the album (which I think people need, they want to have a human-like connection to the artists behind art) without having to connect it to our day to day. It also provides an otherworldly dissonance to the viewer/listener, I think. It is the slight uncomfortable element that elevates the music into another plane. Band photos tend to be a line-up of grumpy men who don’t know what to do with their hands, I don’t think that adds to the music, in fact, it may even harm it. Hopefully, the masks allow us to step away from that and provide that bit of fission that makes it more real for people.
What are some of your favourite moments of this release? And why?
Timothy Pope: My favourite moments from the album change regularly but in my recent listening, after not listening for a while, there are moments that are really sticking out for me. I love the breakdown in ‘Sere Money’, when the song goes from the swaggering “rock” riff and collapses into a dark and nasty entropy. I really like the tone change at that point; it feels like the bottom drops out of the world. When the distorted guitars come in on ‘Twined Towers’ always makes my heartbeat faster. The last verse of ‘Parse Over’ that fades out to nothingness is another highlight. I know, when we wrote that, that that song had to be the last song on the album. We tried several variations of track listings but that always ended as the last track. It ends on such an open and eerie note sets the next album up perfectly.
I personally find your musical output to be intensely cathartic. I think this is because you construct this music from a place of dedication and very old school love for what you do. How does this resonate with you? Are you proud of the documented works of this band so far?
Timothy Pope: I am glad to hear that. I hope it is cathartic for everyone. Extreme metal can be a transcendent experience if it is done correctly. It doesn’t have to be clinical and unemotional. The world is a machine designed to crush you, and our art should reflect and ameliorate that, at least during its run-time. We are certainly dedicated to our music. It isn’t a means to an end. We aren’t creating music to play shows or sell t-shirts. Our music itself is the primary goal. Live shows are just ways to re-interpret and reflect on the music, not to hear applause. We are a very self-contained unit. If the music makes us happy, then we have succeeded. We release it so that, hopefully, other people can enjoy it too, but our dedication and love is directed solely at our art, for ourselves.
I am very happy with our works to date. The albums are all honest reflections of the band at the time of writing. There are, of course, aspects that in hindsight I would change, however just as you can’t go back in time to tell yourself not to wear that ugly jumper in that photo with grandma from ten years ago, so you are stuck with your artist choices and they are a reflection of the person you were at the time. If that is an honest reflection, how could you not be proud? I guess it would be different if you were play-acting, looking back you might feel shame, but we have created a chunk of dark art that provides a journey from 20-year-old young Turks to 40-year-old angry old men. I hope that other people can listen to that journey and enjoy it as much as we have.
Live this band has always exceeded all expectations, what are the battleplans for playing this release live? And then what next?
Timothy Pope: We’re committed to bringing this noise to the stage, however being all in different states we need to make sure that borders aren’t going to slam shut at any moment! There has been talk of live shows this year and we are keen to get back out there. It has been almost 7 years since our last show, even longer for me as I haven’t played a gig since 2011, so we’re champing at the bit to get on stage. We haven’t yet worked out how this will be interpreted for live shows, for my parts I am interested in trying to generate more live noise and rely less on keyboards but that will take some experimentation so I am not sure what form it will take. But rest assured, when we come back it will be the full scale assault. We don’t do things by half measures!
We’re working on some more music now. It’s not yet a new album, something connected to “Revelator”, but once that is done, we’ll go back into writing and try to have the 5th album recorded and release well within the next 8 years!
Who are the most important artists to you at present?
Timothy Pope: This changes all the time, as I guess it does for everyone, but currently I am listening a lot to the last Emptiness album, “Vide”, which is an odd album. It’s no longer metal in any way. It sounds like you’re listening through a Covid-haze. Very inspiring. I’ve been digging into the last two Hail Spirit Noir albums and, while they haven’t yet clicked for me, I find them very intriguing. The last The Body album, “I’ve Seen All I Need to See” is a belter and the Moor Mother and Billy Woods collab “Brass” is incredible.
The band excels at both vocal and guitar expertise; how do you maintain this seemingly never-ending push for brutality?
Timothy Pope: I think it’s just a matter of pushing for the new ideas, as it always is for us. Erik is a phenomenal guitar player. He has an aggression that is unmatched. Breaks more strings than McEnroe. But what I have always find incredible about Erik’s playing is his off-kilter melodic sense. He has an innate ability to find chords that shouldn’t work (in a “musical” sense) but somehow, they work. There’s an often-misunderstood idea of this band that we are anti-melody. We just don’t do standard, Iron Maiden melodies. Our twisted melodic sense comes from Erik’s guitar and he is constantly, almost effortlessly, finding new variations that somehow work, despite themselves. I don’t know how he does it.
Cain is the same, he is constantly searching and trying new things. Like us all, he wants to find new ideas. Just growing and screaming won’t cut it for him anymore. When you have gone as extreme as you can in one direction, then it is time to change directions. By bringing in more of the clean vocals, Cain has been able to step up the anguish and pain in our music, which is more brutal than the fastest blast beat. For all of us, and our music, I think we are united in a desire to make dark, ugly art. So, while we are always looking for new ideas, it always tends to be rising from filth and that nastiness will be with us, always.
Any final words or messages?
Timothy Pope: Thank you very much for the interview! For those whole like ugly, dark and challenging music, check out “Revelator”. I guarantee it will unsettle you.
Thank you for your time and kudos/much thanks for pushing the fucking envelope and keeping the listener on their toes.
Grab the album here...asap!!: