So the early Amebix releases are finally becoming more widely available (even though they have been on the bootleg circuit for quite a long while) which is excellent because some of the bootlegs of them are pretty nigh unlistenable, and considering that these releases are some of the best material that Amebix offers, finally seeing the light of day can only be a good thing for these recordings. No Sanctuary: The Spiderleg Recordings compiles the No Sanctuary 12" EP, the Winter 7", and the Who's The Enemy 7" all into one handy little package for the first time, well at least officially. And since the band has quite the history of being bootlegged and ripped off by people, this reissue is probably the best sounding versions of these that most people have ever heard (my first exposure to these recordings was admittedly from a horrible sounding bootleg tape which I bought and the band did not see any money from either). The metallic and hardcore punk style that Amebix displays on this release is crushing and perfectly fits the darkly poetic lyrics creating a unique sound that has surely been the root cause of their place in punk, hardcore, and even metal's development over the course of time since their initial break up in 1987.
The screeching clarion call opening of "Battery Humans" announces the collection the same way that it does the original No Sanctuary EP, and as Amebix explodes with all the instruments and a haunting vocal delivery (aided by the cracked and haggard voice being forced to make noise) with some evocative lyrical imagery: "Welcome to cell block 427 it's 10 o'clock at night/ Can you see the rows of bodies twitching in their sleep?" What continues is a tale of human suffering that is desperately poetic. The clanging dissonant guitar sounds of "Progress?" are anchored by the steady rhythm section as the vocalist spouts of in a manner that one could imagine the individual foaming at the mouth as he maddeningly spits out the lyrics that tackle the role of technological advancement in human society and its impact on people in general. A memorable lyrical couplet and subsequent line of the band is present in this track "They lead you to your slaughter/ Like they lead a horse to water/ They can't force you to drink/ But you do!" The song "The Church is for Sinners" is the band's diatribe question and lashing out against religion (or an organized form of it); one of the more admirable aspects of the lyrical composition of this band is that, unlike many other punk bands, Amebix does not simply slag off objects of their scorn but rather ask poignant questions that make people think about the subject matter, and in this song the band does this particularly well: "How much roughly is your god worth to you? / And if he said 'Lay down your life for me' could you give that too?"
Once "Moscow Madness" ends the track sequencing of this re-release gets a bit dodgy considering that on one hand the order, at least on the CD version, is wrong ( "Winter" and "Beginning of the End" actually precede "Carnage" which differs from what is stated on the packaging), the CD puts the songs in a more logical order than how the packaging sequences them taking the original Winter 7" and placing it in chronological order (descending out to the band's first recording). That aside, the remainder of this record contains some rather crucial songs that, although the band might not have considered them as such from the inference in the liner notes, are incredibly important as they are some of the building blocks of the many sounds that can be heard in punk and its various offshoot forms of music now. The hypnotic, almost droning of "Winter" is a desolate sounding piece that simultaneously sounds both desperate and resigned; the howling chorus of "Winter" juxtaposes well with the ranting of the verse and sits atop the tribal quality of the percussion. The lack of printed lyrics for "Curfew" and "Belief" is disappointing, but all of the songs sound a bit clearer (particularly compared to some of the cassette copies of these songs that circulate).
For fans of Amebix, this release is completely necessary if the original records are not in their possession, and for those who are not fans or have no previous exposure to the band, this is a good place to start to hear a group that has influenced groups like Neurosis and Napalm Death as well as being huge contributors to what is commonly referred to as "crust punk." No Sanctuary: The Spiderleg Recordings is an important look into the nascent Amebix and shows them at their most raw and in some respects vicious sounding, and the liner notes within the package also adds significant insight into the conditions, culture, means, and surroundings which informed the music when the band wrote these songs (the bassist and vocalist, "The Baron," refers to these recordings as The Bristol years due to Amebix basing their operations out of this town in Britain). If Amebix's Arise! reissue (also from Alternative Tentacles) is a familiar or vaguely familiar sight, than one should have a fairly good mental picture of what the layout and packaging looks like or at least a basis for said mental image layout (the vinyl version of the No Sanctuary: The Spiderleg Recordings release is also similar to Arise! in its LP plus 7" format). The artwork here includes many of the iconic images that adorn Amebix related merchandise as well as the original releases of these recordings.
8.7 / 10
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