About Me

Interview with The Amenta

8 years after the last album, the Australians The Amenta, release their 4th full-length, Revelator. A bewildering, black, strange and disturbing work of art, with the theme of Transmutation as a background and that has little to do with the previous albums of this quintet.
Timothy Pope (keyboards) answered our questions about the new album, about the fact that they do not want nor want to be labeled to a genre and the deep artistic concept that surrounds the band.

M.I.- Hey! Thank you for your time in answering our questions! And congratulations on the new album! It's a beast! Heavy, emotional and multidimensional.

Thank you for the interview! I’m very glad you’re enjoying the album. We’re certainly enjoying the fact that it is finally out, after many years of work. It felt, at times, like it would never be released, so the fact that it’s now out and people are responding so well to it is an incredible feeling.

M.I.- For those who do not know The Amenta on this side of the world, how do you describe your band?

I would describe us as an Extreme Metal band. Our foundations are in Death and Black Metal, but we like to explore different sounds and ideas that fall well outside of those narrow confines. As a result, many people have decided that we are an Industrial band, however that is not a term we really understand or embrace. However, that seems to be a term we can’t shake no matter how hard we try (even releasing a fucking organic, deliberately anti-industrial album!) so perhaps that is the easiest way to explain us to people. Our music tends to be dark and ugly. We can be fast and brutal, but lately we’ve been enjoying pulling back and letting the tension and eeriness seep out of our music. There is a lot of atmosphere in our music, and even the more straightforward moments are mangled with electronics and effects. In short, we make ugly music for ugly times, using any instrument or idea if it can add the right element of darkness.

M.I.- Amenta means “Prayer or night song with which souls are augmented”. But it can also be the money that is given to the priest. Are you religious? Or do you see yourselves as a guide who must show the way to the flock? You even have a Pope in the band!

Until I read this question, I had no idea that Amenta was a word in Portuguese, let alone one that is so appropriate! That’s excellent. We chose the name The Amenta because of its use in Ancient Egyptian mythology, which we were interested in at the time as a metaphor for the master / slave relationships and entropic decline of master civilizations that we were seeing manifest in the modern world. In Egyptian, it referred to the underworld, where the souls were judged before passing beyond. It is interesting that there seems to be some relationship between the Egyptian meaning and the Portuguese one.
I am not religious, in any way, and I don’t think anyone in the band is. I am not even spiritual, at least not in the way we would normally consider these things. I am fascinated by consciousness and its mystery, but I don’t necessarily see it as a spiritual concern, more an existential one. As the Pope, an irreligious and blasphemous one, I certainly don’t see us or myself as guides. We aren’t trying to show a way. We’re trying to understand ourselves. Art is selfish like that. It’s not about making other people’s lives better, it’s about the artist understanding their own life. It is a secondary benefit that other people can find meaning within it. So, we aren’t showing a way, we’re finding one, and you are all welcome to follow us if you like. We’ll be going that way either way.

M.I.- Speaking now of music… 8 years since the last album… Why the delay?

In between “Revelator” and the last album, “Flesh is Heir”, we went into a long hiatus away from the public eye. The main reason was that, after the intense writing and recording sessions of “Flesh is Heir” and then the touring in support of it, we were completely burnt out. It was such an arduous process that, by the end of it, we were completely crushed and uninspired. We decided to disappear for a while, to see if inspiration would return. If we had started working on another album straight away, being uninspired, it would have been a pale imitation of our previous albums. We’ve always been a band that has enjoyed pushing our boundaries and trying to find something new to say. Repeating ourselves just feels cheap and unfulfilling. We decided we would rather never release anything again unless we found something worthwhile to say. We then disappeared, with the aim to wait until we were inspired again. 
We started writing quite quickly after deciding to disappear, but we were writing for a completely new project, rather than The Amenta. Because it was a new project it didn’t have the historical expectation of The Amenta, and we felt very free. We were able to throw any idea around and not worry where it fit in. As a result, we ended up with about ten songs of odd stuff. But we realized that some of this material could make an exciting new direction for The Amenta. We began reworking songs a little, to fit with The Amenta’s instrumentation and soon the seeds of “Revelator” started flowering. The demoing and recording took a long time, as it always does for us, complicated by the fact that members had children or moved countries. But throughout that 8 years, we were always working.

M.I.- How long did the album take? What constraints did you have on the recordings, due to the pandemic and the lockdowns?

The process from initial ideas to finished product was probably around four years. But as I mentioned, there was some life things that got in the way and slowed the process down somewhat. The final recording process took maybe a year. Thankfully, the pandemic didn’t affect the writing and recording too much. We all have our own studios and can record all of our own parts. We all live in different states of Australia, so we are very used to not being able to be in the same room. Where the lockdowns and pandemic did affect us was during the mixing of the album. Erik [Miehs, guitars] mixed the album and he started in London, where he was living at the time. When the pandemic hit, Erik had to get back to Australia just before the borders closed and had to pack up his studio and ship it all back to Australia and set it up again in Adelaide to try to continue mixing in a completely new environment. The cohesion and clarity of the sound is a testament to his skill and dedication. I am blown away by what he achieved under those crazy circumstances.

M.I.- What is the theme of this album? What do you address? And what does the cover mean?

Key to the album is the idea of subconscious interpretation. There are themes and ideas that are embedded in the album, however I don’t want to spell them out, as I believe that destroys the magic of them. With our previous albums, I have always written lyrics to a theme. The theme comes first, and I slowly write lyrics to fit, but my process has always been to allow my mind to wander a bit and suggest relations and alternate themes. As a result, my lyrics have always had many undercurrents and sub themes. However, I found that, when I was talking about the lyrics and themes in interviews, I talk about the main theme, and this gradually eclipses all the other themes, and the sub themes disappear. The lyrics start out 3-dimensional for me, but in discussing them the magic is lost and they become flat. This time I wanted to ensure that that 3-dimensional aspect remained, and I also wanted to explore the effect of the subconscious more.
My technique this time around was to write phrases in a book as they occurred to me. I did this for 3 or 4 years, and that time allowed me to partially forget the original meaning of the phrases. Often the phrases were puns or plays on words that were a reference to the themes and obsessions that I am thinking about in my day-to-day life. Taken together, they are a map of my subconscious obsessions. When it came time to put the lyrics together, I went back through this book to find phrases that seemed to fit together and suggest new meanings. In putting these phrases together, often written years apart, I created a “master” meaning. But hidden within are all the hidden original meanings, so the lyrics present a collage of stacked images that must be interpreted. For me, this means the lyrics have maintained their 3-dimensional effect. For listeners, I hope that it works like viewing an abstract painting, where meaning isn’t given but only suggested. People are presented with a chaos of images and themes and must allow their minds to find some sort of order. I think other people’s interpretation of the album’s meaning is as valid as mine and I don’t want to poison other people’s ideas by being too clear on my own.

M.I.- Why did you choose “Sere Money” as the first single?

Sere Money was one of those songs that, even in the very early demo stage, had a fire that was immediately recognizable. We don’t really share demos outside of the band, but once the album was complete, we let a few people hear it and they all pricked up their ears when ‘Sere Money’ came on. It is such a different song for us that we knew that it would surprise people. Our thinking was that if we were going to come back after 8 years, we need to come back with a surprise. If we had slipped back in with more of the same, it would have been boring. ‘Sere Money’ was a great song to launch with because people had no idea what the album was going to be like. If we had used one of the more “metal” tracks as the first track, people would have thought they understood the album and there wouldn’t be that desire to dig deeper. Plus, I think people’s ideas of an album are framed by the first songs they hear. The first released track colours the audience’s experience of the album. We wanted to confuse and beguile, and ‘Sere Money’ seemed to be the best track to do that.

M.I.- The videoclip of this song deals with “transformation”. Transformation of what?

Specifically, the clip deals with transmutation. As I mentioned earlier, the album is underpinned by the idea of interpretation. When it came time to make the film clip, Cain [Cressall, vocals] and I discussed, briefly, the lyrical ideas but decided that his interpretation was more interesting than if he tried to create a video based around my meanings. From my understanding, Cain was inspired by the music and lyrics to examine the idea of transmutation through suffering. This is a process wherein a person goes through a crushing trial, that debases and dehumanizes them, and then as a result they are changed into something else. Metaphorically, it is like coal under pressure becoming diamond. With humans, if you put them under pressure, debase them, crush them, the result is something uglier than diamond. Once again, I don’t want to give too much away, rather relying on interpretation, but you can see from the clip that the shambling wreck of the clip is changed into something much more sinister and, possibly, powerful.

M.I.- This album is very atmospheric. Who creates these concepts? How is the writing process? Do you think of the melodies first and then the lyrics or vice versa?

The writing process for our albums is a very collaborative effort so it isn’t possible to split out who is responsible for which part. The creative core of the band is Erik, Cain and me. We’ve never been the kind of band that jams in a rehearsal room to create music. I see our process of creation as almost as a slow circling towards a goal. Every time we go around, we get a little bit closer. Our writing process is sculptural. We tend to start by writing very basic skeletons of songs. They’ll be just drum machine, guitar and some simple keys or effects. This allows us to get a structure and a basic idea down. Then, we start demoing other ideas, like vocals. Lyrics are usually written at this time and we start working on the vocals. Often the vocal ideas will suggest structural or instrumental changes, so the songs are constantly being pulled apart and being rewritten. Once the vocals are demoed and the structure of the songs is relatively fixed, we start recording, which for us is a slow aggregation of sounds, rather than everyone coming in to record their parts. From my side, as the keyboard and samples guy, I spend a lot of time building up, testing, discarding, and experimenting with different sounds and ideas. This time I used a lot less synth and more real-world noise. I ran guitar pedals through a feedback loop, I played a metal fan with a violin bow, I played a violin through guitar pedals and all sorts of other nonsense.
While I am doing that, Erik is recording his guitar parts. Erik has a similar attraction to fucking up the sounds of the instrument. He ran his guitar through a huge amount of guitar pedals as well. When it came to Erik’s mix, he again used all these guitar pedals on everything, from guitars to keys, drums, and vocals. We’re constantly reworking and reusing each other’s stuff, for example, one of the samples in the intro of ‘Twined Towers’ I made from a loop of Erik’s guitar playing on the demo. It is hard to say who did what and who is responsible for each thing. We rework everything, though it is Erik who must pull it all together in the end.

M.I.- This atmosphere is also very present in the visual. The videoclip of “Sere Money” is a good example. Do you think this part is as important as the music or is it just a complement to better understand the songs?

I think that visual components are inseparable from music. No one listens to music in a vacuum, we all use external elements to give form and context to music. Even bands who profess not to care about the visual element are making a considered decision to project an idea of “anti-visual” which is a visual identity. It’s inescapable. So, you might as well do it properly. The music is the foundation. It is the artwork. But I think about it like you would a painting. A painter paints in their studio, creating an artwork that speaks to them in the moment. Aesthetic decisions are made that define how the artwork will eventually look. But once the act of painting is complete, more decisions present themselves. If the artists want to present their picture to the viewer in the best possible way, they must find a frame with a colour and material that compliments the picture. Then they decide where to hang it in the studio or gallery. Which paintings is it near? What is the light like? All these things contribute to our appreciation of the artwork and, maybe not for the artists but for the viewers, become inseparable from the artwork itself. Music is the same. We write a song, but then we must think about how that song is presented. A great visual element can elevate a song, a poor one can tarnish it. So, I think to answer the question of whether it is as important as the music, I would suggest that to the listener/viewer it is just as important. To the artist, I think it is a secondary, but highly necessary, concern.

M.I.- Where do you get your influences from?

We tend to talk about inspiration, rather than influence. The people I find most inspiring are in this band. We’re constantly trying to surprise ourselves and each other with new ideas. Nothing is more inspiring that when someone comes up with an idea that seems to be pregnant with possibilities. I think that is the underlying fuel for this band. It’s how we can continue to write music and make sure our albums are all interesting and unique. The cool thing about Erik, Cain and me, is that we all have completely different tastes when it comes to art and music. There are certain very strong crossovers, but we are all out searching for new things to keep us entertained and I am sure that some of the music and art I am into would be considered appalling by the others, and vice versa. But when we get together to write, all those inspirations are internalized and changed through some strange alchemy, so when we write music I can be blown away by their ideas. Even though we all come from different spheres of inspiration, I think we are all motivated to make ugly, dark music and that seems to be the common area that our music stems from, no matter where the initial inspiration started.

M.I.- You released your first album in 2004 (although you have the 2002 EP). It means that you have been doing this for more than 20 years. How has the trip been? How was your evolution as a band?

It is crazy to me that it has been 20 years. I still feel like the 17-year-old I was when I joined this band. I turn 40 this year. We’ve achieved some amazing things with this band, things I never thought I would do, and I think we have a lot more to do. Looking back on the band, from where we were to where we are is quite surreal. Strangely enough, I don’t think our process has ever really changed. We’ve always been trying to do the exact same thing: create ugly extreme music and keep ourselves entertained and excited. Any evolution we have experienced is because of this drive to keep ourselves entertained. We, and I think most people, get bored by staying in the same place so our evolution is something that must happen, if we are to continue. If it didn’t, we’d break up the band and go do something more interesting.

M.I.- You like to reinvent yourselves with each album. Is it natural or do you want to move away from labels and connections to a style / genre?

It’s a completely natural process, linked to what I discussed before. When we write music, we’re not trying to write a Death Metal song or a Black Metal song. I think most artists are probably similar. If you set yourself a limit by saying I will write a death metal riff, then you are already limiting your expression. It’s best not to think in terms of genres at all. When we write, we pick up a guitar or another instrument and then improvise and experiment. When we discover, through a happy accident, and interesting idea then that becomes the spark that can fuel a whole song. We don’t think about what “kind” of music it is, only that it is exciting. The way that we are wired means that the things we find exciting are the new ideas. When we come up with a riff that sounds too like something we have already recorded, it doesn’t have that exciting spark. It seems boring. But when we come up with a new idea, that sounds different to anything we’ve done before, that’s when the whole band gets excited. By chasing that excitement, we naturally move away from the music we have already made and find a new direction for each album. I think that is a fundamental aspect of this band. Without that drive we would not be able to write any albums, as we would get too bored. 
When we write music, we don’t give it any labels at all. We don’t think of a song in terms of style and genre. They just must have their own logic and to sound “correct”, which is the term we use to decide when something works well. Genres don’t belong to artists; they are terms that are used by critics and listeners to understand and present an artwork to other people with a minimum amount of explanation. It gives a rough idea of a sound. For an artist, a genre is next to useless. We’re making ugly, dark music. That’s all we call it. You can then decide what you want to call it. It doesn’t change anything.

M.I.- It is still early but... Are you already thinking about the upcoming album?

We’re always thinking and plotting next releases. We have a few shreds of ideas lying around that may form the seeds of the next thing. We’re also working on something else, not a new album as such but something connected to “Revelator” which should be complete in the next few months. Once that is done then we will get into the ideas for the next album properly. I’m excited to start writing again. Usually after our albums there is a bit of a lull where everyone is a washed out and it takes a while to get the inspiration back, but this time I can feel that we are all ready and excited to go.

M.I.- There have been several lineup changes over the years. On vocals, Cain is already the third to take the place. Did this, in any way, limit your growth?

Sometimes lineup changes are because of growth, we need to do certain things, be it touring or musical, that members can’t commit too. But it always inhibits plans when you must search for new members. We were very lucky to find Cain. He stepped in to replace our second vocalist, Jarrod, and jumped straight into an intense US tour in 2009. Since then, Cain has become an invaluable member of the band. He has joined Erik and me as a member of the core creative team. His artistic input has helped shaped the releases that he has been a part of. We knew, the first time we saw Cain play live, that we needed him in the band. We played a show in Perth, where he lives, and we stayed at his house as he was a friend of our friends. He was a great host, we got a long really well, but our friend said: “You have to see this guy on stage. He is an animal”. We couldn’t understand how this polite, friendly guy could be as crazy onstage as our friend suggested. We played the show in Perth and Cain’s band, Malignant Monster, supported. He got up on stage and he was covered in filth, he was mumbling into the microphone like a schizophrenic and then just screamed “EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY” and they launched into the first song. Erik and I were blown away and decided that we had to have him in The Amenta, if anything should happen with Jarrod. His joining the band was a huge step for us, and rather than limiting our growth, allowed us to get closer to the vision of the band in our heads.

M.I.- Is it easy to be a metal band in Australia? How is the Australian Industrial Death Metal scene? What other bands, even metal in general, do you recommend?

I think Australia is one of the harder places to be a metal band (outside of Saudi Arabia or one of those countries where you can be imprisoned for blasphemy of course). Australia is a thin rind of civilization around a huge desert. There are 12-hour drives between major cities, and very small populations outside them, so touring here is expensive and hard. Touring internationally is also seriously expensive as we must fly form the dark side of the moon to an actual civilized country.
I don’t know about any Australia Industrial Death Metal scene. We don’t really consider ourselves an industrial band at all, so we don’t have the tightest connection with any scene. Obviously there are bands like The Berzerker who are friends, and we have toured with. There is a cool new project from a friend of ours called Monsters Around Us which is an interesting mixture of synth stuff and Godflesh-like machine doom. Outside of that, I have been really enjoying the new album by Spire. Our friends in Werewolves, Psycroptic and Ruins are all worth digging into. And Nazxul have reformed, which is very exciting.

M.I. You now changed labels to Debemur Morti Productions, ending the relationship you had for many years with the previous one. Why?

We really enjoyed working with Listenable Records. They are an excellent label, great people, and good friends. When we released “Flesh is Heir” in 2013, that was the last album of our 3-album contract, so we were out of contract. At the same time, we went into hiatus to discover our new direction. When we came back, we spoke with Listenable, and they were interested in the new album, but we also wanted to see if it would be worth trying something different for this new phase of the band. We had a very short list of labels that we liked, and right at the top of the list was Debemur Morti Productions. We loved their roster, they released some seriously forward-thinking music and their focus seemed to be very artistic, rather than just blatantly commercial, unlike a many other labels. We also had some friends who had worked with the label, like Ruins & Ulcerate, who all said that it was a pleasure working with them. We got in touch with Phil from the label and we loved his attitude to music and art. While it was sad to move from Listenable, we couldn’t have imagined a better partner for this phase of the band. Debemur Morti have been incredible for us so far and we look forward to working a lot more with them.

M.I.- You have already played some concerts in Europe. Do you know Portugal?

We haven’t yet had the pleasure of playing Portugal, but we would love to. I know friends have played there and they have said that it is awesome, unfortunately our tours haven’t gone their yet. Hopefully soon. I’ve never been, even outside the band, so I would love to get over there.

M.I.- And Portuguese bands?

Obviously I know Moonspell. I used to listen to “Under the Moonspell” and “Wolfheart” a lot. I know Ava Inferi but outside of them I confess I don’t know a lot. Send me some recommendations at our social media accounts. I’m always after good new music!

M.I.- Where can we find your music and buy your albums?

You can find our music at our Bandcamp: theamenta1.bandcamp.com or you can check out the Debemur Morti Store for “Revelator” CDs, LPs, Tapes as well as shirts: www.debemur-morti.com/en/512-the-amenta-shop. You can still find older releases at Listenable Records here: www.shop-listenable.net/en/152_the-amenta.

M.I.- Last question and to be a little different… What is the least metal thing you listen to?

I listen to heaps of music, and a large chunk of that isn’t metal. I like all kinds of music from jazz to noise, folk to techno. I guess if I was to pick anything out of all that that is the “least metal”, today I am going to suggest “Laughing Stock” by Talk Talk. It is completely un-metal; in fact it deals more with silence than sound. It’s a very quiet, hermetic album which is the opposite of the more extreme ends of the spectrum, where I enjoy having my brain and ears sliced open. This is a warm bath in melancholy. The last three albums from Talk Talk and the single solo album of their vocalis, Mark Hollis, are all brilliant in different ways. I recommend them highly. 

M.I.- Almost finished… any last words for our readers?

Thank you for reading this interview! Check out our new album “Revelator” if you like strange and ugly music. It’s dark and nasty and I think you will enjoy it.

M.I.- Again, thank you for your time. I hope to see you one day on a Portuguese stage. Stay safe.

Thank you for the interview! I hope to get over there soon.

For Portuguese version, click here

Interview by Ivan Santos