Sunday Old School: Amebix
Heavy metal and punk rock has had a longstanding love/hate relationship. Though some fans of one genre have viewed the other with a sense of distaste or disdain, others have given the opposing scene respect. A number of bands were well known for appealing to both sets of fans, with Motorhead being one of the earliest examples and Discharge were a punk band that heavily influenced thrash metal, but another group to bring punk to metal fans was Devon’s very own, Amebix. The group formed in the South West of England under the moniker, The Band With No Name in 1978 by Rob Miller and his brother, Chris, also known as "The Baron" and "Stig" respectively, along with And Hoare and Clive Barnes. They performed regularly in their local area and increased their profile considerably when Rob gave their four track demo tape to underground heroes, Crass, who included the song, "Universally Challenged" on their first compilation LP, "Bullshit Detector."
Shortly afterwards, both Clive and Andy left the group and a new drummer named Martin was brought in. Soon after his recruitment, the band decided to change their name to Amebix, referring to the amoeba. The band was first moved to Dartmoor, then London where Martin suffered a mental breakdown, inspiring the song, "Largactyl," following which Amebix relocated to Bristol, where they lived in squats, during which time they shocked a few people by recruiting a synth player. With something of a stable lineup in place, the band got to work on material and recorded the EP, "Who’s the Enemy?" and the single, "Winter," which reached as high as eighteen on the British Indie Chart.
After these releases, the band entered the studio once more to record another EP, "No Sanctuary," which was released in 1984. Whilst recording the EP, the band met Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys (and later of Brujeria, amongst others,) who was also head of Alternative Tentacles Records, for whom the band would soon sign for, making them the label’s first British acquisition. With the backing of a proper record company, Amebix began recording their first full length studio album, which was released in 1985 under the title, "Arise!" It was very well received by both punks and fans of thrash metal, many of whom found out about the extreme punk rock bands through the bands they listened to name dropping them.
Following the release of "Arise!" the band hired a new drummer, known simply as "Spider," and got to work on new material. They also signed a new record deal, this time with Heavy Metal Records, who would release their sophomore album, "Monolith." The record was very well received by fans, many of which felt that their attempt to bring in a more thrash metal orientated style, whilst still remaining true to their crust punk roots, formed a unique and pioneering brand of music, one which made Amebix deserving of their now legendary status.
Unfortunately, issues with the release of the album caused the group to split up not too long after it’s release, with their final live performance in the eighties happening in Sarajevo, now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but then still a part of what was Yugoslavia. The band remained buried for over twenty years before they announced their return in February 2008, only a month before, "Monolith" was re-released through Moshpit Tragedy Records. In 2010, the band released, "Redux," an EP containing re-recorded versions of three old songs, as well as a live version of, "Progress."
In June the next year, a maxi single, "Knights of the Black Sun," containing the first new Amebix material in over two decades was released as a prelude to their third full length album, "Sonic Mass," which hit the shelves in September 2011. This time, drumming duties were handled by Stone Sour, Channel Zero and former Soulfly drummer, Roy Mayorga, who also produced the album, which appears to be the final output from the band as the next year, Amebix disbanded once again. Whilst the reasons for their second dissolution remain somewhat unclear, it was great to have them back for a while and many of us still hold out hope that one of the most important names in both punk and extreme metal will return to the stage one day.
Amebix - "Winter"
Amebix - "Largactyl"
Amebix - "Battery Humans"
Amebix appearance in UK/DK documentary
Amebix - "Knights of the Black Sun"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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