This Is Hardcore: Amebix – Arise!
Gallows guitarist Lags picks his essential hardcore and punk releases – every Thursday on TeamRock
By the early ‘80s, British punk required a serious transformation if there was a chance of preserving its rebellious roots. Flagship bands like The Clash were now distancing themselves from the sweaty underground clubs and instead chasing success in the States, whilst the Sex Pistols were already considered relics of the last decade.
In deepest Devon, far away from the bright lights of any city, brothers Rob and Chris Miller began disassembling the formula under the name Amebix. After relocating to Bristol and immersing themselves in the local squat scene, they started releasing music soaked in bleak imagery and fuelled by an unorthodox cocktail of British heavy metal and goth rock. Amebix were already firmly affiliated with acts like Crass and Discharge due to their similar political ideals, but their musicality aligned them with bands such as Black Sabbath and Killing Joke.
From the outset, 1985’s Arise! firmly placed Amebix in a different class to their contemporaries. The brooding atmospherics of album opener The Moor is a sonic reworking of the band’s experience rehearsing on Dartmoor, complete with sinister synthesisers and ghostly choir samples. The song sets the tone for the rest of the record in the same way Black Sabbath did on their debut album. This use of modern technology was quite a bold move for a punk band at the time. The electronic instrumentation definitely bolstered the image of an apocalyptic universe, providing a thick layer of gloom over the thunderous drums and growling guitars. The synths brought an orchestral quirk that succeeded in both unnerving the listener as well as invigorating the powerful noise the band were producing. The guitars and bass echoed this sense of conflict, crunching through the speakers in uniform time like soldiers marching to war.