With a new covers EP set for release in less than a week and a tour kicking off next week, Aussie noise merchants The Amenta have got a lot on their collective plates at the moment, so obviously we decided the time was ripe with a chat with the band’s Timothy Pope to find out more about Plague of Locus and those upcoming dates…

Hello, and congratulations on Plague of Locus – for such a singular, unique band I must admit it’s come as a surprise to me to see you doing what is primarily a covers record – what was the thinking behind it? “Inspiration is the key food for any artist who wants to be singular and unique, and we are no different. Our music is unique because it takes inspiration (as opposed to influence) from a wide variety of sources, but it is all fed through the prism of The Amenta’s aesthetic, instrumentation and rigorous self-criticism. Throughout this band’s lifetime, a key component of our friendship has been sharing and dissection of inspiring music. Someone will hear something and bring it to the others and rave about how interesting it is, we’ll all listen, and it’ll likely end up inspiring us in some way. But inspiration is separate to influence as an inspiration doesn’t necessarily have a direct impact on sound, it can be just adding fuel to the fire. For example, during the making of our first album, Occasus, Erik (Miehs, guitars) and I were listening to a shitload of Massive Attack as it was completely new and inspiring to us, and it made us excited about making our own music, but you wouldn’t necessarily hear any Massive Attack in our sound on that album. The advantage of doing an album like Plague of Locus is that we can give people a glimpse behind the curtain and expose them to some of the inspirations that they might not be aware of but ones that have been key inspirational points for our music. I think everyone has a period, most likely it changes due to the age of the person, where they are the perfect age to become a sponge for music and everything that they hear becomes mind-blowing as it opens up new possibilities. For us, that period was the nineties to the early two thousands and we wanted to pay tribute to that time, those artists and those people we were at that time. The artists we have covered on Plague of Locus represent that time for us and they are some of the key inspirational elements that have inspired The Amenta to make the music we have.

The other artists you’ve covered on this new record are unsurprisingly as wide ranging in scope as The Amenta itself – can you give us an insight into their influence on the band, how you selected the track and which band member was the prime mover behind the selection?

“This one was selected by Cain [Cressall, vocals]. Obviously, Diamanda Galas is an incredible artist. Her voice is so unique and her sound so varied, from a diabolical guttural to a bluesy wail and then to angel destroying high pitched shrieks so you can see how she would have inspired Cain in his own search for vocal disharmony. To tell a story from a wider band scope, when Erik and I were maybe nineteen or twenty, we heard that Diamanda Galas was playing at the Sydney Opera House. We lived about an hour from the city and doors were in about an hour, so we jumped in the car and raced to the Opera House to see if we could get in to see the show. We got there five minutes after the show started and being the Opera House, there was no entry after the show started so we headed to the bar to drown our sorrows. We did manage to see her Merch table which included her recently published book, entitled The Shit of God which we thought was great (later we would realise that these were lyrics from Sono L’Antichristo, the song we have covered). Apparently at intermission, half the crowd left the show because they were hoity-toity Opera House members, and she was this gaunt scarecrow with a visceral voice, and she drove them out. Totally inspirational”.

“This was picked by our drummer, David Haley. I think Killing Joke was a band we all had on our shortlist, but Dave put his foot down and insisted that the song to cover was Asteroid. When Dave speaks, you listen so that’s what we did. Like all these bands, I don’t think you can talk about influence, as I am not sure they influenced us in any way, but they certainly inspired us. Killing Joke were always the odd ones out. Back in the late seventies they were too heavy to be post-punk but too dubby to be metal; later they would add all sorts of strange attributes to their sound, sometimes veering closer to metal, sometimes to post-punk, or pop, or electronic. No matter what they sounded like, the always sounded like Killing Joke and that’s definitely inspired us over the years to open our own sound to all sorts of ideas, always keeping the core sound that makes The Amenta”.

“I think this one was picked by Erik. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Dirt. It’s so dark and grimy, doomy as all hell but also melodic. Despite being lumped in with grunge, likely because they were from Seattle in the nineties, Alice In Chains were a metal band and a damn fine one. The interplay of guitars with harmonies vocals was definitely inspirational to us, and while up until relatively recently, our vocals have been harsher and less melodic, that interplay was the key inspiration, and we’d try to have guitars, vocals and other instruments complement each other in a similar way. There were a number of Alice In Chains songs we could have picked, but Angry Chair had a darkness and tension that we knew would work well when transposed into our own sound”.

“I picked this one. I know this song is going to be people’s least favourite track and I love that. It’s not metal, and it requires patience, which is a rarity these days, so I expect a lot of people will be confused by it. But the song is a great one and Wolf Eyes were a very important band to me and very inspirational to aspects of our sound. Wolf Eyes were one of the shining lights of the early two thousands American noise underground. They made really tense and eerie music, often with homemade instruments and circuit bent electronics. That ability to make music from really primitive instruments inspired me personally to try different things with our music. I got into circuit bending and making instruments, as well as recording my own samples as I was inspired by what these guys were doing. Our version of this track substitutes a strangled violin for the original’s excellent saxophone playing, but the basic ingredients of bashed metal, gongs and homemade electronics is similar”.

“I reckon this was a combined decision by Erik and I. Lord Kaos were so ahead of their time in the nineties. Now their brand of melodic black metal with touches of death metal has been co-opted and normalized by thosandss of pretenders, but when they were doing this in the mid-nineties there was nothing like it. Dimmu Borgir didn’t sound like this until Astennu joined, after leaving Lord Kaos. They were one of the foundational bands in the Sydney extreme metal scene. In high school, we would play Thorns of Impurity, their sole album, every day. Later I would join Erik’s band, Crucible of Agony, which had Jamie from Lord Kaos on vocals, and it was like joining a band with a Beatle. He was a rockstar to this teenager. Turns out he’s just a great person. We’d often spoken about doing a Lord Kaos cover and I am glad we could pay tribute to one of the best”.

“I think this one was me again. Halo were an incredible two-piece band (bass/vocal and drummer, a doom/noise White Stripes) from Melbourne. I remember being at Erik’s place when we were writing our first releases and we read about Halo in Terrorizer and how they had signed to Relapse Records. That fact that a band from Australia had signed to a large international label (a thing that never happened in the early two thousands) and the fact that we weren’t aware of them, was crazy! We immediately tried to find a place to hear them. This was before streaming and MP3 blogs and all that shit, but we found a download of a track somewhere online, and it was the track Rise. We played it and it knocked our heads off. So different to anything we’d heard. It was dark as hell, and doomy but it was also so noisy and weird. The whole song kept falling apart into murk but then would lurch back into this grinding riff. Still gives me chills to think about”.

“This was Erik’s pick I am pretty certain. Like Lord Kaos, Nazxul were a very fundamental band for us and for the whole Sydney scene. When I was a kid, they were really mysterious, no one knew who they were, all their photos were silhouettes. Their demo and the first album, which I listened to religiously in high school were so brilliant. They played black metal, but it was so alien and different to normal black metal. Later I would get to know the guys and they have been almost mentors to us, and especially Erik, I think. Lachlan (Mitchell) from the band recorded all of our first releases, and a few recordings from Crucible of Agony, our former band and Lachlan really inspired Erik to get into sound. Adrian (Henderson) from Nazxul was also a huge help to us in the early days. He would help us with location scouting for photos and general art advice. Erik and I were in a band with Lachlan and Greg (Morelly, guitars)  for a while, though nothing ever came of it. The first gig I ever played was supporting Nazxul and Impaled Nazarene. So, it’s obvious we were really inspired by these giants of Australian black metal. They were a band we would always have to pay tribute to”.

“I remember this one as Erik’s pick also. My Dying Bride’s whole Turn Loose The Swans album was such a corner stone of avantgarde metal and a huge inspiration to us. It was still super heavy, but it had incredible atmosphere. When we were talking about Revelator and how we wanted it to sound, we held up Turn Loose The Swans as one of the examples. It has everything from crushing heavy death metal riffs, to melancholia and even a bit of noise in the violin scrapes in certain songs. When talking about how we should close off Plague of Locus, Erik suggested a noise version of Black God, and we knew it would work well. The original is a maudlin, melancholic track and no matter how much noise we piled on it, you can’t escape that melancholic edge. Our track has guest vocals by the incredible vocalist, Alana Sibbison which add a beauty to Cain’s ugly take. Cain brings a desperation to the lyrics which I think works really well”.

You are going to go out on a short run of Aussie dates to support the new EP – can we expect to hear most or all of Plague of Locus played live? “A band of our vintage, it’s hard to shoehorn in all the tracks that people want to hear. We have to play certain songs of all the old albums, and no one wants a two hour extreme music set, there are only so many blast beats you can handle before your brain is mush, so something has to give. We’ll definitely be playing a few songs from Plague of Locus, but the set is a pretty even balance between all of our releases. Most of these covers are studio creations only, no one wants to see me bashing on metal and sawing at a violin for example, but some of them definitely have potential to be live show staples. People will just have to come to the shows to see what we play”.

How do you think touring has changed in the wake of the pandemic, and how will fears about climate change guide touring in vast countries like Australia moving forward? Are you optimistic for the future of live music here? “For us, the pandemic had a direct impact. We had to cancel a whole tour in 2021 and, as a result, this is our first headlining tour back. So, I am not sure how we’ll
go but I am cautiously optimistic. Because we’re a band with members completely spread-out in different sides of the country, touring is difficult even without border closures, but I think potentially the upside of this is that people will get more familiar and supportive of their local scenes. Throw a rock and you’ll hit some teenager playing Smoke on the Water in his garage and in a few years those guys will be in bands. There will always be local bands but until recently that oxygen gets taken up by international bands. We’re all familiar with people who will pay a hundred dollars to see a big international but won’t pay twenty dollars to see a local. If local is all there is, more people will explore what’s around them so I think that can only be a good thing”.

Bands often use covers records as stopgaps to keep fans happy whilst new music is being gestated – when do you think we can expect an album of all-new material from The Amenta? ” We’ve set 2024 aside to write and record a new album, so hopefully we can get a new album released not long after that. We have a bunch of ideas sitting around but nothing pulled together into something concrete yet. Next year Erik and I will sit together to start working on ideas and seeing what ideas work together. I already have an idea for lyrics and a concept that I am working through. Historically, we have been very intermittent with our releases. Since 2021, our aim is to be a lot more prolific, but who knows? In this band all sorts of bullshit can get in the way, but we always keep plowing through”.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers of Sentinel Daily about the new album/tour that we haven’t covered? “Thanks very much for the interview! The only things missing are the key
points: Plague of Locus will be released on October 19th . Obviously, you can stream the singles on your streaming platform of choice but, if you really want to support the band, we recommend you pre-order either the exclusive limited-edition vinyl from our friends at Direct Merch or pre-order the digital on Bandcamp. Actual orders help support the band and allow us to invest more money in making more ugly music. Tickets for the shows are on sale now so get to oztix.com.au to buy your ticket so you don’t miss out!”

Thanks for chatting – and good luck with the record!

The Amenta release Plague of Locus on October 19th, and kick off their Australian tour in Sydney at the Crowbar on November 16th. Find all the other dates HERE