Amiensus – Abreaction


A lot is made of the anger black metal purists feel for the splintering of their genre into trendier and more fashionable enclaves, but spare a thought for the shoe-gazers who’ve also seen their apolitical art-school indie rock subsumed into the black metal fold. Not all black metal is evil and not all post-rock and alternative guitar music is introspective. Yet mix the two together and you get a curious amalgam, like the fusion of salt and vinegar. Minnesota’s Amiensus glide through the middle of this concoction with the iconoclasm of an apostate saint and the melancholy of an eighteenth-century romanticist dressed in vegan-friendly clothing.

Heavy music comes in many shades and too few shapes, but Abreaction is an admirable attempt to capture the full spectrum of darkness with pockets of light along the way. The first two tracks are as much Sonic Youth and The Pixies as Blut Aus Nord and Alcest. ‘Beneath the Waves’ mixes Cocteau Twins with blast beats and surprise tempo changes; ‘Divinity’ is a marvellous piece of progressive music coated in neo-classical black metal and sorrowful folk melodies. Ten tracks of this might grow stale, but fear not, for Abreaction is an album within an album (if that makes sense!). At times it brims with metallic brilliance, like on the precise thrash attack of ‘To the Edge of Life’ and the imperious black metal stride of ‘All That is Unknown.’ On other occasions it blends the gothic with the Irish bowing techniques of the violin. It’s easy to lose your concentration with so many competing ideas, yet Amiensus do a fine job of retaining your attention.

Like Canadian blackened death progressives, Ancient Thrones, you will get the most out of Amiensus if you follow the music in time with the lyrics. ‘Euphorica’ is a poignant exploration of the triumphant civilisations that built upon colonisation and enslavement in the name of science and progress. The last three tracks take a drastic change in language and embrace the wrath of the Old Testament for inspiration. You’ll not believe this is the same band when you compare the Behemoth-esque ferocity of ‘Iconoclasm’ with the post-rock musings of ‘Beneath the Waves’. The disembowelled rage of the hardcore vocals blend with the fiendish fury of the black metal shrieks and the haunting choral harmonies of gothic rock throughout the album, never settling on one style but always engaging the listener. This alone is a triumph.

At fifty-five minutes, you might wonder if this record is too long. Does it slip into the occasional whirlpool of mind-numbing tedium, like many atmospheric black metal artists? The answer to both reservations is a resounding no. Abreaction is progressive in the real sense – expansive, never afraid to experiment, imperious in its effortless coherence.

You’ll hear everything from Burzum to noise rock and Celtic folk music in the mix, not to mention some awesome double-bass drumming and epic passages of Viking metal. Unusually, they also increase the extremity levels with each track until we reach an unforeseen medley of misanthropic metal in the last third of the record. Again, you must ask if they’ve ditched the undergraduate casuals for chainmail and spikes. Is this the same band?

Many fine albums may go unnoticed this year. Let’s hope this is not one of them. Amiensus deserve your undivided attention.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 02/10/2020

Record Label: Transcending Records

Standout tracks: Divinity, To the Edge of Life, Cold Viscera

Suggested Further Listening: Blut Aus Nord – The Work Which Transforms God (2003), Raventale – Planetarium II (2020), Déluge – Ægo Templo (2020)