A bit of metal curio here for you, bringing some historic demos to you from a band I confess I knew nothing about before getting this to review. Amenophis, it turns out, were a Swedish death metal band operating between 1989 and 1995, and released two four track demos between 1991 and 1992, and so everything the band ever recorded has been collated here for your delectation. They have been mastered from the original cassette tapes in 2015. Interestingly, Amenophis came from the Ostergotland area of Sweden, rather than the rather better documented Stockholm or Gothenburg areas, making this an interesting aural document for metal historians interested in what was happening elsewhere in Sweden during the formative period for death metal. For those of you interested in this kind of thing, a couple of the members went on to play in the band Darkified, while bassist Robert Hylen went on to play in a couple of other bands that have been part of the excellent IHate Records roster, Sargatanas Reign and Griftegard.
To the music then: what is there to hear? Well, first thing is first, while it is great that the music has been rescued from cassette tapes, it’s also clear to hear that this is where the source is. The sound is muffled, the cymbals really ragged around the edges, and there is an audible hiss that is ever present in the music. As an old fart, I can’t say I really minded this too much, as I was well used to listening to tenth generation dubbed copies, and this took me back in a few ways, but newer listeners might be a bit put off by the lo-fi quality of the production. The first four tracks, from the self-titled “Amenophis” demo, are a curious blend of the typical Swedish death metal sound, though without so much of the “groove” that was present in other bands of the day, and more of a nod towards the American sound. Of the four tracks from this demo, “Church of Abaddon” is the most interesting, with some really interesting riffs and changes of tempo that owe as much to classic Obituary as they do Nihilist and their ilk.
The second set of tracks shows a band that has really matured in a short space of time. “The Twelfth Hour” demo from 1992 shows a much clearer production, with really prominent bass, and song writing that sounds much more self-assured and confident. The songs are really much more influenced by thrash metal here, with a sound that owes itself hefty debts to the proto-death metal thrashers such as Possessed, Venom and Celtic Frost. “In the Dead of Night”, for example, could have been the death metal track that Kerry King et.al. wrote after “Show No Mercy”, with its mix of swaggering riffage, thunderous drumming and middle-finger -in-the-air soloing. (No, I have no idea how you would do a guitar solo with your middle finger in the air either, suspend your disbelief please!). A fresh version of “Church of Abaddon” is the final track, which is a clear improvement on their 1991 sound. The pity is that although the band continued to play live until 1995, they decided as a group to disband at that point, which was an all too common situation around that time. Within the space of a short year, the band had come a long way in refining their sound to be a grim, pale-faced version of death metal that shared more than a few elements with the nascent black metal scene (shrieked vocals, thin, treble-heavy rapid riffing) that could and perhaps should have seen them evolve. The seeds of a really interesting band were certainly here, but this was a band that ended before they could develop to a point where they were more interesting.
So to the final question then: is this actually any good? Well, I guess my thoughts are that this is more interesting than enjoyable. It’s certainly a curious release for anyone who wants to piece together the history of Swedish extreme metal, but it’s one of limited appeal and truth be told, bar a couple of tracks, there isn’t a lot here that is going to keep you coming back to listen more than a couple of times. An interesting release for the collector then, but really limited value to everyone else.
(5/10 Chris Davison)