Don’t you just love record company politics? The story behind this album from Californian punk-metallers Amen – who three years ago seemed destined for global glory – is nearly enough to warrant a soap opera.
The short and curly version is the following: the (then) Svengali of nu-metal signs a rising band to his major label imprint. Record company execs rub their hands in anticipation of the dollar inflows. Despite incendiary live shows and critical acclaim, there’s a trickle of money in rather than a deluge. Band starts recording follow-up with $250,000 from the label. Label decides to drop band but won’t let them release the record unless they pay back the quarter of a million. Band splits up, leaving frontman and founding member penniless…
Now this would be enough to send the sanest, calmest of people into apoplexy. But when you’re already a rage-filled, unhinged artist like Casey Chaos, the old adage of “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” comes into its own. At least it does, if Death Before Musick is anything to go by.
Recorded by Chaos and various session drummers over the course of a year, with borrowed equipment and studio time, and released on System Of A Down‘s Daron Malakian’s new record label, Death Before Musick is a startling, snarling, gnarling statement of intent.
There may be heavier bands around, but there are few angrier, and even fewer who can harness their ire into as many consistent musical headbutts as those here.
It’s been said before but Chaos and his crew are as punk as it gets, which is quite an achievement for a band residing in LA. Even The Sex Pistols‘ Steve Jones famously said that Amen are “far more p***ed off than the Pistols ever were,” and from the pink and yellow album sleeve to the sloganeering lyrics (“We want your liberation”, “Rise up and be discarded”, “We’re all infected”, “Destroy your newborn future”, “We don’t do what you do” etc.), to the lack of tracks extending beyond three-minutes, this is a record made today but with its ideals born a good 25 years earlier.
Picking out tracks is probably a pointless exercise. There aren’t any gaps between songs because Death Before Musick is meant to be listened to in one sitting, as a guttural outpouring of negative energy swallowed whole. But, if we’re gonna try, then the immensely anthemic, shout-along quality of California’s Bleeding and Money Infection; the supercharged hardcore of The Abolishment Of Luxury; and the bigger, faster, louder bite of We Got The Bait not only give you an aural beating, but take some beating too.
Amen’s music is a perfect reflection of its creator’s apparent state of mind. Like Mr Chaos, Death Before Musick skates close to the edge of sanity, and occasionally topples over. But then it dusts itself down, gets back up and shoves itself in your face with more brass and brashness than before. Amen keep it real. This is not for the faint- or feint-hearted.