Like most metal aficionados, I’m a lover of all things dark and different. Sometimes that perturbing passion manifests itself in a breaking of creative boundaries, musical or otherwise. 1 Despite my death metal tastes dwelling mostly amongst the ossuaries of the ancients, I appreciate when a band goes the distance in pushing the envelope. Hyper technicality often leaves me cold – overwrought wankery aimed squarely at the untouched trouser department of guitar techs everywhere – but sometimes a band gets it right, melding proficiency, foresight and progression to conjure something unique from the chaos. Belarus’ very own Amentia are perhaps such a band. Harboring members of veteran acts Posthumous Blashphemer, Disloyal and Thy Disease, it’s a maddening meld of bulldozing riffs and schizoid lead work that comprises third album Scourge.
To get the name dropping out of the way, if you’re a fan of Misery Index, Blotted Science or The Faceless then, chances are, you’ll enjoy the kind of technical death metal that Amentia are offering. First up, “Kill Me” wastes no time in engaging with progressive staccato riffing and frenzied blastbeats. The component that inexorably elevates itself beyond the onslaught is the insistent soloing of guitarist Artyom, whose leads are so omnipresent, it’s increasingly redundant to refer to them as “solos.” He furnishes every available audible inch of the album with surreal spider-like fret-work – all layered over fusion inspired rhythms and head-spinning fluctuations in tempo.
Between the Suffocation inspired breakdown on “I Don’t Believe” and the huge, amorphous grooves in “Anorexia,” a comparatively slower track that has absolutely no business being as memorable as it is, Scourge makes for a pretty impressive listen. The main feature of the record, however, is the somewhat avant-garde structures and claustrophobic presence that the consistent lead guitar offers. Inside of that, it can sometimes be hard to identify the albums’s personality. Between the obvious tech death stylings and New York inclination, there’s a clear reverence for acts like Beyond Creation in the group’s earnest need for progression – particularly apparent on the moody stylings of “Slow Decay,” though not to the extent of the other Children of Chuck bands, who are content only to build upon Godfather Schuldiner’s latter works. In fact, the music is so dynamic in its composition, that it almost renders growler, Zubov and his ultra low emanations, obsolete. Second vocalist, Vile, responsible for screams that can barely be discerned anywhere on the record, fares worse still. When a band so clearly able and of such faculty employ what feel like peripheral gimmicks, it can’t help but seem a little counter-intuitive. Maybe I’m just old and rusty, but I’m not entirely convinced that the record’s quality wouldn’t be diminished had it been wholly instrumental, which the majority of it is.
Special credit must go to Alex who not only supplies a wildly sentient bass, whose vibrations unpredictably prowl the entire record, but also wrote, mixed and mastered the album and, by all accounts, provided the rather exhaustive drums, too. His production offers the rabid instrumentation a primordial low-end – the kind of frequency that gave classics like Pierced From Within their herculean brawn. It’s this kind of percussive pugilism that so terminally hammers home “Sentence Executioner,” with riffs so unfaltering they practically terraformed my ear canals. One unfortunate trait of the production, however, and immune to the album’s overall quality, is each song’s tendency to begin and end abruptly, thus the transition from one track to the other can sometimes be a little indistinct. This habit results in the stronger material being denied the spotlight it richly deserves.
Amentia have consolidated their burgeoning influences and skill to delight and confound the ears of tech savvy death fans the world over. Although married to certain unforgiving engineering flaws, here is a record that surely succeeds in employing its baleful mania, and reminds us that the importance of extreme music, and its hand in broadening the horizons of what can be considered art, mustn’t be underestimated. If you too enjoy the creative malcontent, then dare to lock eyes with Scourge – “… for I knew that the King in Yellow had opened his tattered mantle and there was only God to cry now.”