Posted by: Necci – Jul 07, 2011


Amebix – Knights Of The Black Sun (Profane Existence Records)

One of the most terrifying moments for any music writer comes when staring down a new release by a well-loved veteran band. Will they still have their initial spark? Will they have softened? Sold out? Turned into a pale shadow of their older selves? All valid questions, and unfortunately the latter questions tend to be the most applicable. So when confronted with the newly revamped lineup of Amebix, one of my favorite bands of all time, I will admit to more than a little trepidation. Their initial reunion offering, last year's Redux, saw the band re-recording three of their old songs with new drummer Roy Mayorga (from Shelter, Nausea, etc.). And the songs weren't bad, better than expected even. But the question nagged at the back of my mind (and likely the minds of other fans as well) even as I gave it a good review: what's the point? Why not new material?

But, as if to make up for a re-introduction that might not have been as ambitious as fans expected (though not bad by any means), the band has let bits of a new album slip, first in the form of behind-the-scenes videos of their recording process, and now in the form of the Knights Of The Black Sun single. And if there was any doubt at all that Amebix could still pull off their unique combination of gloomy intensity and disdain for genre convention, this one fucking does it.

The song's first half will probably prove disconcerting for their seasoned fans. Clean guitar underpins gravelly, melodic vocals, and sounds not unlike Leatherface's Frankie Stubbs fronting Killing Joke, before a crescendo builds into the sort of galloping heaviness that the band built their reputation on three decades ago. The song finally comes to a head with what is probably the most anthemic fifty-five seconds they have ever committed to tape. It builds intensity with each passing second, as if gaining a vicious gravity through momentum. Some long-time fans, expecting a return to the band's crustier roots, might not be sold on the cleaner production and the stronger emphasis on melody, but Amebix was always about progression, tweaking their sound slightly with each release and never letting themselves get painted into an aesthetic corner. So while Knights Of The Black Sun might not sound like Arise or No Sanctuary, it's very much in keeping with the spirit of their overall output.

My only qualm is the brevity. One fucking song on a single-sided 12” record? If the quality of this song is any indication, Sonic Mass, the album on which it will be featured (due on September 20th), will be absolutely devastating, possible album of the year material (sorry Graveyard, please don't hate me). But this one-song record thing – no matter how amazing the song happens to be - is a damn tease.

By Graham Scala