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Amass – Gamekeepers Gallow album review


Amass – Gameskeepers Gallows

(Grow Your Own)

LP | CD | DL

Out Now

In an unfair world, Amass declare an anti-manifesto for organising, protest and direct action. Nathan Brown says this album will go down very well with lovers of 80s anarcho-punk with music that is evocative of bands like Alternative and Toxic Waste. Another great release from Grow Your Own Records.

Most of Amass can be found backing Rodney Relax playing Alternative songs and Andy Coward playing The System songs. They boast a fine pedigree stretching back decades including bands of note such as War All The Time and Anti-System. Playing Alternative songs has definitely rubbed off as this sounds in the same ballpark. Tuneful yet angry – an anarcho-punk sound that was prevalent in the 1980s.

A tuneful lilting vocal style balances out angry shouts as animal abusers and politicians come in for a verbal battering and us normal folk are encouraged to work together to fight oppression and hierarchical constraints. The hummable tunes are largely powered along by the crashing drums and the wandering bass lines. The dual guitars provide a wall of fuzz to add flavour with additional depth and accent provided by counter melodies, natty single string phrases and harmonics.

In addition to that commonality of approach with Alternative, the combination of the two vocal styles with the overactive bouncy bass puts Amass in the same melodic anarcho stamping ground as Belfast anarchos Toxic Waste and F.U.A.L., the similarity to the latter especially noticeable on the faster songs.

The previously digital-only Gamekeepers Gallows kicks off proceedings . taking it’s name from the “gibbet line” that gamekeepers often display – a wire from which hangs the various species they have exterminated – it’s a great reminder that anyone out for a walk in the countryside can do their bit for animal liberation. “Walk a long the dry stone wall. Follow the quad traps up to the moor. Removing the traps won’t stop them. At least make the c***s pay more”

Eton Mess takes a well aimed shot at the public school educated ruling elite. Some might call it a class war message, but in reality it’s a response to the class war waged by the rich on the rest of us. This is not the politics of envy, it’s analysis of economic injustice. It’s ordinary folks who pay for the privilege of the elite, and the song lists a litany of things we have paid for: “We pay for it all”.

The central message of Grab Life is that if you want gigs or bands in your town “make it fucking happen”, in other words…Do It Yourself!  Diversions works hand in hand with Eton Mess as another reminder that politicians sew the seeds of division and hate to keep ordinary people distracted from the way they are exploited. Division breeds division. The song ends on the rhetorical question “Can we work together?”

DIY culture pops up again in Academia, name dropping the Crass Bullshit Detector albums. They name check Punk Scholars Network in a clever move so all those dowdy old professors will feel obliged to recommend this record to their young charges! Punk Scholars of course act outside academia and DIY online resources that document our history such The Hippies Now Wear Black get a mention.  Whether you think academic engagement with punk is a good or bad thing, the dual message in this song is that class boundaries were pushed back so working class kids could study at Uni. Unfortunately, the rising costs mean this is becoming less of a viable option.

Keep It To Yourself delivers up a reminder that state surveillance of activists is still very real (see the Spycops inquiry if you don’t believe me). Bragging on social media makes it even easier. Specialist cop units focused on Animal Rights and environmental activists used to spend hundreds of hours trying to work out who knew who to map networks of activists and work out who to monitor. Now, 5 minutes on Facebook will fill in a lot of the gaps, complete with photos. The closing messages from the song are delivered as slogans before a blistering guitar solo: “Keep your big mouth shut”, “Walls, doors, floors all have ears”, “Be a hero not a zero. Keep it to yourself. Don’t broadcast your intent”.

Miner Conflict/Major Contradiction starts with archive footage of Greenham Common women in a song that links together the battles of the 80s including the Miner’s Strike, Greenham Common and Stop The City – and the battle against sexism – with more current protests like XR and Just Stop Oil. The song closes the album with a very clear anti-sexist message that calls for unity between women and men rather than propping up the patriarchy. This is refreshing to hear as feminism and equality is a subject that seems more sidelined than it was in the past, and often gets obscured by arguments over gender identity.

For lovers of classic 80s Anarcho punk, Amass are musically and politically on point. We live in a political system that is based on unfairness and privilege, exploiting people animals and the environment. It’s arguable that what we are seeing now is just as bad as what happened in the 1980s. If we want to change this then we have the tools: organising, protest and direct action. Having artwork by Clifford Harper on the Crass style fold out poster sleeve is a definite coup.

Get it from Grow Your Own

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Words by Nathan Brown. You can read more from Nathan on his Louder Than War archive over here.

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