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Sonic Mass Kevin Mccaighy , October 6th, 2011 11:59

Over the past quarter century, a shadowy aura has been accorded to legendary crust/metal UK group Amebix. It has grown exponentially throughout the ensuing decades despite the ongoing unavailability of their most celebrated work. Since their heyday in the mid 1980s countless artists and musicians within the underground have based their entire principles and outlook upon the groundbreaking albums Arise and Monolith, colossal achievements that demolished the punk/metal divide like no other albums of their time, inspiring everyone from their most notable disciples Neurosis and Sepultura, to more recent adherents such as the Japanese crust/doom outfit Gallhammer.

Their recent reunion, conceived in part by Roy Wallace's excellent documentary Risen: A History of Amebix and the group's own sense of unfinished business has resulted in a new album, Sonic Mass their first full length in 24 years. Frontman and bassist Rob 'The Baron' Miller's whispered, threatening vocals and trademark clanking bass line are heavily fore-grounded on 'Days', a stark and pensive opener that skillfully lays the ground for all that is to follow. The group's longstanding advocacy of the epic has been successfully reawakened and finds itself realized in a resoundingly immersive series of brutally fierce songs that are best experienced as one headlong listening experience. Rob Miller's occupation as a world renowned sword smith working in splendid isolation on the Isle of Skye cannot help but imbue perceptions of the album, so readily does the Amebix mythos confront you. The trampling gait of 'Shield Wall' introduces guitarist Stig C Miller's inimitable, uncanny thunder. Those same close formations of bitter, encrusted riffs and rhythmic heft roar and growl with devastating consequences across Sonic Mass, and it is a thrill to hear one of the underground's most respected musicians playing at full bore once again.

In Rob Mayorga, Amebix have recruited to their number a talented producer and multi-instrumentalist whose skilled production garlands the group's sound with the resonance and penetrative coherence that they've longed for throughout their career. His bristling, combative drumming lends itself to versatility, on the one hand expertly underpinning the heavyweight rampages of 'God of the Grain' and 'Sonic Mass Part Two', on the other a prime embodiment of hard rock economy for 'Here Come the Wolf'. Similarly, his haunting mandolin provides the melodic counterpoint to the bruising, downbeat 'Sonic Mass Part One', the album's most emotionally affecting moment.

What truly emerges from this exultant and exhilarating album is that this reunion has not been for any other reason other than a creative resurgence, and for all that the palette is more nuanced and the arrangements that much more articulate, Sonic Mass comprehensively re-establishes Amebix's innate ability to rip your head from your shoulders.