8 Jul 2020
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Amos/Anon - Album Review: VHMET

24 Mar 2020 // A review by Callum Wagstaff

Amos/Anon have been around in the margins of music society for over a decade now, occupying space around buzz words like Gothic, Acoustic, Industrial, Doom and Progressive. People used to find Amos/Anon CD's and USB's hidden in university libraries. Now there's a Bandcamp with all the releases represented on one page; a good chunk of work to see all on one screen. The band description is mysterious and iconoclastic: "If you haven't heard of [amos/anon] then the system is working, go back to sleep." Amidst all the noise of people asking for your attention, the music of Amos/Anon basically just exists, and you're welcome to engage with it.

VHMET comes after a 3 year hiatus, recorded in a November session in 2019 over a week. It's worth noting that this review is for VHMET (2019), lest a redux or revisited version crop up in the future. The gothicoustic songs are undeniably driven by an engine of emotional rut, but there is also a more cerebral, academic influence: VHMET (pronounced vehement) stands for Voluntary Human Extinction MovemenT; an environmental group that supports grandfathering out the human race by ending production of children. 2016's Anomy had a similar mode of connection to Emile Durkheim's theory of mechanical and organic solidarity. It's a cool thing to be able to approach an album both intuitively and
analytically.

The first track And You Know It is a minute long intro that sets up the mood. "If you're happy and you know it, overthink. If you're happy and you know it, give your brain a chance to blow it." I'm not sure I've ever heard an album that so efficiently let me know that I was about to identify with some stuff. The music also gave me a flashback to Nine Inch Nails' A Warm Place, which goes down well with me. And You Know It is the perfect ad for the rest of this album. It lets you know right away what it is and how you will relate to it.

If you were feeling a bit bogged down by the waxing intellectual then fear not; there are moments of blunt despair to lean into as well. Coma (Come Down) borders on dead pan humour with its opening line "why is life so shit?" You're definitely still listening to the relatable disenfranchisement of the 'Happy and You Know It, Overthink' album. This song sounds like a tired husk of a person going over all the flaws they know they'll never overcome. The chorus comes in big but somehow feels like giving into attrition. It feels like going to sleep unhappy or the no-turning-back-now fifth drink that turns your night into a cesspit of cathartic outbursts. The voices in the second verse sound like they're coming from just outside your dirty one room apartment that you haven't left in 3 days.

Just Let It Go contains my favourite lyric from the album: "You turn on the TV whenever you see me." it conjures up an image in my head, it's relatable and every day, but it's also pregnant with significance. This is the line I always think of after I finish the album and it's always of a partner watching TV in the dark as I come home from work. As the song progresses I picture sitting next to a significant other, mindlessly watching TV in the dark, silently coming to the realization that the relationship is dead. The song kicks in to a higher gear just as I get sad and I can instead imagine a fun binge of resigned self-destruction.

In between track 3 and 5 there's a manipulated sample of a radio host transitioning from Just Let It Go to One Brain Cell. I have another Nine Inch Nails song I always think of listening to the latter: Something I Can Never Have. One Brain Cell is possibly the darkest song on the album, and it's beautiful and fleeting and anguished. It's about abortion so the way an individual relates to this song will vary greatly based on their personal experience.

The Day I Broke sways between two chords and a soft, barely vocalised retrospective. It feels a little similar to One Brain Cell in approach and loses some impact because of that. Thematically it feels like it could be taking place several months or even a few years after the events of the last few songs, but this album could also be more of a 'love retrospective' depending on how you project yourself onto it. Not necessarily connected by the other characters as much as the experience of the writer. At the end there's a recording of somebody playing a song called I do it better when I'm burning at an open mic or something. I would like to know the story behind this.

The final track, Go to Sleep, opens almost hopeful in its first few notes. Maybe it's the closest VHMET could ever hope to get to a happy ending. In substitute of anything actually getting any better, it feels right that the album digresses into resignation. The music boils over into a frenzied head space swirling around the refrain "Fuck my life" and then finally, like the sixth hour at the end of a sleepless night, there's another large period of semi-consciousness among subdued, distorted voices and machine beeps. The album arc feels like a systematic pushing away of everyone close to you which inevitably leaves you feeling isolated and uneasy. BUT THEN there's also a cover of Cindi Lauper's Time After Time squeezed in at the end like the secret tracks you used to find on physical releases. What does it mean? I'm tempted to think it was just for fun but the lyrics also fit in with the rest of the album's subject matter pretty well, so it could also be intended as ancillary to the concept of VHMET.

There's also a kickass remix of Coma (Come Down) that sounds like the industrial side of A Perfect Circle and a 2017 demo of The Day I Broke, which sounds like The Day I Broke with drums.

VHMET is a lot to process. The run time isn't that long but it's emotionally tiring and requires a fair few listens to pick up on it despite its deceptively simple structures. It's carried by sweet melodies floating along unsettling soundscapes. It was a hard one to experience again and again. It threatened to break me, especially in my isolation. But great art about suffering should make you suffer a bit. You might find a bit of nostalgia in that suffering, and if you do, that art is for you.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

About Amos/Anon

"...it’s Kiwi from end to end, indie and awesome. The more I listen, the more I want!"

"...unashamedly bolshie and brazen. There is no room for tenderness here."

"...Haunting..."

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Amos/Anon

Releases

V H E M T
Year: 2019
Type: EP
Demos
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Postmortem
Year: 2016
Type: EP
Toil On, Poor Heart
Year: 2016
Type: EP
Anomy
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Gothique Doesn't Exist
Year: 2014
Type: EP
Beneath The Pound Of Flesh
Year: 2014
Type: Album
Thanatos
Year: 2013
Type: Album
Songs of a Tortured Soul
Year: 2012
Type: EP
Demos
Year: 2012
Type: Album
Darkness From Light
Year: 2011
Type: Album
My Schizophrenic Acoustic
Year: 2010
Type: EP
theLachrymist
Year: 2009
Type: Album
Systema
Year: 2008
Type: EP
Gothique
Year: 2007
Type: EP

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