The return of Amen was big news to anyone that was an oily, depressed teenager at the turn of the century. To anyone that had just started listening to Bill Hicks and was getting aimlessly angry at everything from politics to their cat, Casey Chaos was like a sweary Jesus.
However, Amen’s proposed UK comeback tour is now dead. First a whole brace of shows were postponed so the band could continue to work on their (long, long, long) delayed new album. The subsequent implosion of Alt-Fest – of which Amen’s booking for was what sparked this tour in the first place – saw the rest of the shows get pulled as well. With certain members of the Thrash Hits team sobbing angry, nostalgic tears as we email off our ticket refund requests, we got Amen superfan Daniel Cairns to run off a little list for us…
The Top 6 Amen songs we’re not going to see played live this month anymore
1). Coma America
I first heard this on an NME sampler about fifteen years ago. Will Haven were on it too. And Coldplay, before Chris Martin married a film star and called a human being Apple. To a mook that thought Rage Against The Machine were the height of heavy, it was a revelation. Will Haven in particular (the track was ‘Fresno’) sounded unbelievably intense to my virginal years. Of course ‘Coma America’ was a banger too. Two minutes, no messing. If RATM were like a peaceful university protest or a worthy but dull Michael Moore film, ‘Coma America’ proved Amen were like a pipe bomb; an infantile scrawling of FUK U BUSH’ spattered across the White House. In blood. A bit like that bit in Father Ted where Dougal asks Ted for Matador stuff. But ANGRY.
2) Hello (One Chord Lovers)
Maybe the fanbase had all grown up by the time Death Before Musick emerged? I’d certainly graduated to more violent stuff like Eyehategod, Daphne and Celeste and Nasum (largely thanks to a properly excellent Kerrang! compilation Casey Chaos himself compiled). Whatever the case, much of Death Before Musick (which would prove to be Amen’s final album to date) was a damp squib. The abrasive edge had gone, and the band had transmogrified from a DIY, low-key grungey looking outfit to a bunch of 80s cock rock/crust punk messes. Despite that, ‘Hello (One Chord Lovers)’ was a real highlight that managed to meld the heaviness of earlier work with a HUGE chorus. Nothing else on the album touched it. For some reason it was never the lead single, and the woefully generic ‘California’s Bleeding’ got that honour. More like ‘California’s bleedin’ boring’, aye?
3) No Cure For The Pure
One of the best things about Amen was the fact that along with the punk and metal, there was a bit of goth in there too. They could be bloody creepy and creaky, and there’s no better example than ‘No Cure For The Pure’. Casey Chaos whispers about sickness, decay and death and that over squealing atmospherics, before it explodes for the chorus. The best bit was the way his scream fades in before it all kicks off for the second time. Say what you like about the man, but his vocals were often spot on. No one else sounds like him, and he’s in possession of one of the most feral roars in aggressive music. One of the reasons Death Before Musick didn’t work so well was because it seemed to ditch a lot of the creepiness prevalent here.
4) Piss Virus
‘Piss Virus’ should have been the next ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Imagine a load of kids merrily singing along to a chorus of “PISS VIRUS, INSIDE US” on CD:UK, Cat Deeley gamely grinning along. We Have Come For Your Parents was hyped as the most violent album on a major label at the time, and given that it had this on it (along with stuff like ‘Take My Head’ and ‘In Your Suit’) it’s a fairly good shout. It’s just so beautifully noisy and aimlessly angry, like a petulant child swearing and flailing his arms about, but his arms are chainsaws. The best bit by far is the “I hope all you necrophiliacs in California fuckin’ die!” lyric flying in from out of nowhere.
5) Down Human
‘Down Human’ is another song featuring copious mentions of the word piss. It is a fine word; straight to the point and crass, but not without a bit of elegance. Depends how you say it really. Piss. Piiissssssssss.
Anyway ‘Down Human’ is great, and probably features Amen at their grooviest. Obviously the highlight is when it kicks up a notch, Chaos yelling about “blood and piss” culminating in a heroic yowl of “PISS… DRINKING PISS… FEEL LIKE… PISS… DESTROY, DESTROOOOOOOOOOY!” And now I’ve just had to put it on again. Fifteen years and it still makes my inner existential nihilist feel all warm and cuddly. Good work Mr Chaos.
6) Refuse Amen
I blame two people for my abject failure to progress as a guitar player. The first is Tom Morello, who made me think it was ok to just fuck about with an alan key and an effects pedal a bit rather than, you know, actually learn to play the pissing thing. The second is Casey Chaos, because playing along to simple-yet-banging stuff like ‘Refuse Amen’ was a billion times more satisfying than learning convoluted, bendy and interminably boring riffs from bad Led Zeppelin and Red Hot Chili Peppers songs for your wildly stoned and unreliable guitar teacher. ‘Refuse Amen’ clicked with me immediately. Again, it’s still gives me a slight buzz listening to it now. Casey Chaos (who played all guitar parts on the albums) sounds like he’s really thumping the strings too, and it probably explains why I kept messing my strings up. DROP D TUNING FOR LIFE.
Amen will not be playing their previously scheduled UK tour dates, or of course the cancelled Alt-Fest. They will allegedly release a new album in the not too distant future, going by the number of photos of the recording process that they keep posting on Facebook. However give it’s been 10 years and counting since Death Before Musick and we’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve heard updates regarding progress on said record from Mr Chaos, we’re not holding our breath for an impending release.