Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The Amebix crawled from the gutters of Bristol, UK in 1982. While many of their American counterparts (myself included) were rebelling against the comfort and privilege of middle class, the Amebix were scrounging food out of dumpsters and living in filthy squats with a handful of other bands that chose to walk the walk as well as they talked the talk. A combination of squalor, drug addiction, and sheer ferocity helped to forge a pair of albums that were seminal works in the shaping of my life as a young punk rock/hardcore kid in the 1980's, and as an undying influence on me as a musician to this day. The Amebix took the fury and chaos of punk rock and strapped it to an undercarriage of Sabbath infused heavy metal, creating one of the most unique and gifted rackets ever created in the genre. They were the first band in the genre to fuse morose sung vocals with ragged, Motorhead inspired wailing, and every note was played as if it might be their last. Their inspiration can be heard in every note of every song Starkweather has ever written. The lyrics had a literary influence that was unheard of for the time and spoke eloquently of the personal struggles of the members as well as the politics of the day (which, in hindsight, are more relevant in 2011 than they were back in 1985). From the 1987 album Monolith:

Last Will And Testament

The parchment of my flesh must break
The winter winds my soul doth take
And all beneath the heavens lies in peace
A world will form and fade away
The crystal dawn of the final day
Breaks upon the shores of death's release

Bring me my flesh and blood
On land, the sky, the sea
And light a raging fire upon the hearth
Gather round 'neath the cloak of time
And drink a toast to these
Our final days upon this earth

We made the deserts from the gardens of our youth
We spewed our blackened hearts into the sea
Through darkened skies and poisoned clouds
We blindly grope for truth
We couldn't see the forest for the trees

To my wretched son I leave this gun
To slaughter all your race
For this, the beast you have become
I have no longer taste
And daughter fair with burning hair
The swamp of life be thine
And watch as e'en the great will mate
With the lowliest of swine
To breed the sons, the greed and scum
Of this your ravaged land
All my estates, both small and great
Shall fall beneath your hand

I place very little weight on nostalgia. To me it implies that the best has past, and I'm not ready to surrender to that just yet. I despise reunion tours, retro anything, and have a near pathologic resistance to revisiting the Starkweather back catalog when we play live. Having said that, seeing the Amebix at the Trocadero in Philadelphia on January 31, 2009 was a transcendent and unforgettable moment for me. It was their first time playing the States, their first time playing together since they split up in 1987, and from the first note to the last it was a sublime experience. Not content to just run out the 'hits', raid the cash register, and fly home, they were able to channel the ferocious invincibility of the band as young men with the wisdom and sadness of adults who have lived their lives at the margins. I started going to shows in the late 1970's and began going to punk rock and hardcore shows in the early 80's. I've had the good fortune to see many of the iconic bands from that era and there are only a handful of bands that gave me the same feeling that I had that night in Philadelphia.

Here's a clip from their album Sonic Mass, due out on September 20, 2011:

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