It's very obvious when you first listen to the album that Amebix don't sound at all like whatever metal you were listening to previously - everything feels that little bit different. Punk, like metal, is a very good genre at soaking into every aspect of other styles, and it's very much apparent in Arise, which, while in many ways fundamentally recognisable as a metal album, at the same time feels as much a punk record as anything else. The riffs and song structures, for instance, are more busy - cluttered and course, with hyperactive instruments popping-up sporadically through the albums production. Much in the way that it worked well for metal bands like Venom, however, the haphazard, slap-dash sound which Amebix posses nonetheless works very well. Sure, it's not perfect, in either production or musicianship, but that's another of the ways in which the punk elements are manifesting themselves, and more than that, adding to the album. Yes, the albums production is murky and tangled, and the riffs sound unlike the sustain-filled chords which you listened to yesterday, but at the same time, there's something distinctly special about it all. The explosive, clanking bulldozer-bass which at times beats the guitar into submission certainly dominates the album, and there's no doubt that it takes the sound to somewhere that few bands had explored at that point. The dominant bass is certainly one of the most punk elements of the albums sound, and one which, entwined with the other idiosyncrasies of Amebix, distanced it from any of the metal released in '85 stylistically.
You might suspect, with low-fi production values and a rough sound, that Amebix may sound very thin and grounded - only the sum of the instruments involved, perhaps, but this isn't the case. Many of the songs on the album sound big, at times even epic - numbers like "Drink and be Merry" have a echoing, powerful and distinctly atmospheric edge to them, certainly evocative. The album as a whole has a remarkable ability to be on one level almost percussive-sounding, grimy, oily metal-punk, but at the same time, be extremely atmospheric and on another level, and while the mix takes some getting used to, it carries an intensity and ethereal feel which once again set Amebix apart. The songs really feel like they go somewhere, and carry a lot of weight with them, not just as memorable and energetic, but also deeper than that. While scathing, and with a tendency to rattle and rumble as if it needs some WD40, Arise' sound really is splendidly dynamic and versatile. The barked vocals and thundering, clunking instruments carry more emotion than many musical contexts would allow them to, and certainly demonstrate that clean-singing is far from vital for evocative, even beautiful, music.
I found Arise! quite an easy album to write about, and I think that says a lot about how much the album offers up to write about. Amebix are a band who I can guarentee will always offer more than meets the eye, and while doing so, throw in a hefty dash of uniqueness. Arise! is a classic, and if you enjoy it, the rest of their discography is solid.
This is an 8/10.
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