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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
inspires you to drive this band on? Is it mostly personal hooks or drivers, or
is it literature, film or other sources?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
are some of your favourite moments of this release? And why?
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.
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?
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
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.
this band has always exceeded all expectations, what are the battleplans for playing
this release live? And then what next?
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!
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
are the most important artists to you at present?
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.
band excels at both vocal and guitar expertise; how do you maintain this
seemingly never-ending push for brutality?
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,
final words or messages?
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.
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!!: