Amebix - Monolith [vinyl reissue] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Monolith [vinyl reissue] (2010)

Back on Black

When Amebix originally released Monolith in 1987, it was amidst abject poverty, inter-band turmoil and former members faking their own deaths. So, when Monolith hit the ears of crusties everywhere, it was interesting to see that the band's message of hope had been intensified since the release of the genre defining Arise!.

Where Arise!'s production was coated a grit, Monolith cleaned off the strings and increased the speed of the band. While Amebix's trademark chug-chug-chug is still ubiquitous, because it has been sped up the band seems to play like they are more in control of their instruments than before. This new control is evident in songs like "Nobody's Driving", where the band strings together their crushing riffs with metal-influenced solos.

Most interestingly, Amebix's lyrics had matured to a point that was either in direct contradiction or the logical extension of their earlier messages. While their early releases prominently bore the "No Gods/No Masters" slogan, Monolith's lyrics seem to hint–and sometimes directly reference–pagan mythology, suggesting that even the punk ideals of the time could bear scrutiny as much as that there might be more to life than meets the eye. Despite the references to Celtic snakes and lunar seas, the band brilliantly and confounding growls "No gods! No masters!" on "Chain Reaction", one of the album's true masterpieces.

Release-wise, Monolith has always had a sketchy past, with labels releasing CD versions of the album without the band's consent. Most of the CD reissues suffer from the same sonic problems that plagued many 1980s CD reissues, where it seems like the music is behind a layer of plexiglass.

Back on Black Records has just released a vinyl version of the album, which is both sanctioned by the band and features a superior sound quality. While the improved sound doesn't feature many revelations, it does show a slight change in the album's interpretation, making it seem both more vibrant and a little more raw than the static CD versions.

With Amebix gearing up to release new material, this reissue shows that Amebix's evolution wasn't as abrupt as the CD version would suggest, as well as giving us new light to the philosophy of the godfathers of crust punk.