Amen are a punk/metal/hardcore band from Los Angeles. They play extremely hard and aggressive music with very socio-politically motivated lyrics.
The lead singer, the improbably (though appropriately) named Casey Chaos, is a thoughtful, intelligent, articulate individual who cares deeply about many important things. He also has a reputation as being one of the more violently insane stage performers in modern rock, and is said to hurl himself around without a whole lot of concern for his, his bandmates', or anyone elses safety. Speaking as somebody who has seen the band perform live, I can say that this reputation is 100% Justified.
(It was, incidentally, one fuck of a good gig.)
Amen began life in LA in 1994. Casey Chaos had a vision of music which was pure and honest about the state of the world and the reality of American culture. Harsh and biting, fuled by hate and love in equal measure, and about as violent as its possible for music to be.
The first musician Casey found to assist him was guitarist Paul Fig. They met through the LA music scene and began playing together, quickly forming a strong mutual respect and friendship. Then, about a month before recording was scheduled to begin, they met drummer Shannon Larkin, formerly of Ugly Kid Joe. Casey and Larkin immediately hit it off and began jamming and writing songs together- about half the songs on the album were written in that month. Through Larkin, guitarist Sonny Mayo of Snot became very interested in Casey's work and eventually left Snot to play with Amen. After the tragic death of Snot singer Lynn Strait in December 1998, John Fahnestock, bass player with the band, also joined Amen.
Amen enlisted renowned producer Ross Robinson (Deftones, Korn, Slipknot, latterly Glassjaw and At The Drive-In, and forthcommingly Vex Red) to work with them on the debut album. Ross signed them to his own imprint label, I Am Recordings, and got to work on the record. It was a violent time. Casey is said to have given himself black eyes through the intensity of his singing, and if you listen to the record you can hear things breaking in the background.
Amen's live shows are perhaps even more spectacular. Casey gives 110% effort each and every night. The level of pure, raw emotion on display is exhilirating and inspiring, yet slightly scary at the same time; violence, already a common occurance at shows, is an increasing problem at Amen gigs, occasionally errupting into all-out riots. (Note: I personally regard this as a Bad Thing, and a poor reflection of the mentality of Amen's fanbase. The violent members of the crowd are most definitely a small minority, but alas, that is all it takes to ruin a night out for the rest of us. Such is life.)
Amen were set to tour Europe in December 1999, but their label pulled out and withdrew funding at the last minute, and the band had no choice but to cancel the tour. The fans' anger at this was surpassed only by the band's. They saw it as the last straw in what had been a volatile relationship with the label; The band parted company with Roadrunner shortly thereafter.
In what seemed to many (myself included) as an odd move for such a militantly punk-ethic band, Amen signed to Virgin Records. However, they did so through Ross' I Am imprint, ensuring that the major label would have as little artistic influence as possible, thus maintaining Amen's freedom and integrity. Amen immediately set about recording their second album We Have Come For Your Parents, due for an autumn/winter 2000 release. Pre-release press began hyping the record in Ross' words as "The most violent album ever released on a major label". The preview track Refuse Amen, released to radio stations and magazine coverdisc editors, was perhaps slightly less violent than expected, but that only served to intensify the impact of the record upon release. What made it even better was the fact that, in the UK at least, it retailed at a significantly below-average list price. In Virgin Megastore on Princes St Edinburgh, for example, you could buy it new for £7-99. I don't know about you, but thats what I call punk.
Another bizzare move for Amen was the full UK tour they embarked on, as part of the NME/Carling Awards, with the distinctly soft, melodic indie bands Alfie, Starsailor, and JJ72. I went to the Glasgow show on that tour, and it was one of the best gigs I've ever witnessed, despite the slightly surreal lineup. But I digress- thats another writeup for another time.
The future looks good for Amen, especially in the UK, where the band seem to be having more success then in the US. Their records are selling well and Radio 1 have definitely taken a liking to the band; Casey has appeared many times on the stations late night rock show. (The band also made what I suspect to be radio history when Steve Lamacq's Evening Session broadcast an uncensored live set from the band featuring the words shit, fuck and cunt, only shortly after 9pm.)
Amen releases to date:
(This list refers to the UK- I don't know what singles have been released in the US or elsewhere. Please /msg me if you have any info.)
- Amen (Album, Roadrunner Records, 1999)(info and tracklist below)
- Coma America (Limited edition single, Roadrunner Records, 1999)
- We Have Come For Your Parents (Album, Virgin Records, 2000)
- The Price of Reality (Single, Virgin Records, 2000)
- Too Hard to be Free (Single, Virgin Records, 2001)
The album `Amen' is, shall we say, not an album which I would reccomend to my mother. If a parent ever wanted an excuse to reel off the "That's not music, that's just noise!" cliché then this album would do nicely. Its an unrelenting beast of a record, every track is a take-your-head-off affair, and only two are over four minutes long. The guitars sound for the most part like they're in severe pain. Whatever Paul and Sonny are doing to them, it sounds rather cruel. Despite the direct approach to the songwriting, there's a good variety of material on offer here. There are outright punk songs, alongside more... ummm... metal ones.... and.... Okay, so they all sound pretty much the same, thats not the bloody point! This album is pure old-skool don't give a fuck punk rock, which is a refreshing change in todays sanitised, shrinkwrapped music industry. Every song is delivered with the same unbridled ferocity; Caseys vocals are incisive and biting, the drumming is furious and the guitars shriek and roar distressingly. The social comment in the lyrics is about as direct as it gets, and all, I have to say, very true. Its a pure punk album, and a bucket-of-cold-water wake up call to the world. Plain and simple.
- Coma America
- Down Human
- No Cure For the Pure
- When A Man Dies A Woman
- I Don't Sleep
- TV Womb
- Everything Is Untrue
- The Last Time
- Broken Design
- Resignation/Naked And Violent
This album was re-released in 2001, in typical money-grabbing Roadrunner Records style, with four extra tracks, lifted from the band's Coma America single. In a statement through Kerrang! magazine, Casey Chaos urged fans not to buy the re-release, dismissing it as a pathetic cash-in by their former label.