2008 was a tough year. In fact, it’s a growing opinion in many circles who concern themselves with such things that 2008 may, in fact, be the worst year in living memory. For that reason, 2008 and 2018 share a lot in common. Identity politics reigned supreme as the culture wars wages below and many (in fact most) found themselves living without much of the certainty they enjoyed mere months prior. Both years also saw The Amity Affliction at their finest.
We know correlation doesn’t mean causation, but this feels like more than a coincidence.
The Amity Affliction came good in 2008 by releasing their debut full length album Severed Ties, an album regarded by certain dedicated fan factions as the groups defining moment. Though many insist that didn’t happen until the following Youngbloods, of even later - when asked where to start on an Amity journey, the majority of fans will point to you Severed Ties. To understand the album, we need to understand it’s context. 2008 was a year of change. Go through your photos from the end of that year and no doubt you’ll see a very different person from the start - at least we hope for your sake. The subprime mortgage collapse made families fear for their future, and the disproportionate natural disaster events (Almost more of any year on record), put families in fear for their present.
Uncertainty was up, confidence was down.
Releasing a successful album in that climate (much like now) is akin to standing on a moving platform while you try and hit a moving target that isn’t even looking in your direction because it’s too busy trying to keep it’s life together and it’s lights on. But the boys from Gympie did it. Both times.
While Severed Ties wouldn’t achieve chart success - it peaked at #26, about 25 places lower than modern Amity has grown accustomed to - the album resonated incredibly with the fans. It captured a scene in transition (let alone a society) nuanced by a community whose identity was terra formed by the debris of many heavy music moments prior, many of which would end up as nothing more than scattered on the rocks. Death Magnetic had created metal head scratchers, Scream Aim Fire was nowhere near anyone’s cup of tea, and All Hope Is Gone was great, but nothing new. Past generations had a sound for their heavy moment, now, thanks to the eclectic and genre-defying blueprints of Severed Ties, this generation also had its sound (With September’s Suicide Season helping with some of the heavy lifting). Many of us were listening to Severed Ties far too loud on release week to hear the sound of every other band re-posturing, clambering to get in on this wave kicked up by the cultural success of Severed Ties. As we would see with many of the albums to come in it’s wake, that’s exactly what happened.
Produced by Darren Thompson, and the first to feature Ryan Burt, Severed Ties followed on from the High Hopes EP, better known as The EP That Shall Not Be Named. While it was fueled by the same layed instrumentals and dueling Good Vs Evil vocals; Severed Ties was by no means more of the same. Featuring a stunning line up of guest vocalists including Michael Crafter, Helmet Roberts, Matthew Wright and JJ Peters, Severed Ties was a unique beast, fit with daunting and ominous sound bites - from Hot Rod of all movies - and a Pat Benatar cover. This was far more thoughtful than a Music For The Recently Deceased, and more varied than a Horizons.
Like many an awkward individual in 2008, Severed Ties didn’t know what it was or what it was going to be, from the roaring Fruity Lexia, through to So You Melted...the rumpus of Do You Party with the drama of Stairway To Hell. It was as unassuming as the band who made it at that point in their career. Severed Ties was just Severed Ties...but it was also angry, and honest about that (“I'm only just treading water but it's starting tooo seep in”) So what hope did awkward individuals have but to be pulled into its orbit?
You could say that it was downhill for Amity after that moment but the words are so false they would choke you. In the space between Severed Ties and now, Amity would release 5 albums - all of which debuting at the pointy end of charts here and abroad. However, it would be remiss to deny a je ne sais quoi surrounding their latest album Misery - an electricity that hasn’t been in the air since Severed Ties. Or maybe it’s a mood or an appetite to indulge in something that isn’t anything other than what it is. Something that won’t try to sneak an agenda past you. Something that that won’t tweet out threats of Nuclear War...Something that won’t get ousted by fellow party members. Misery for miserable times. After all, “We’re all gonna die.”
Though the respective Amity albums would be oceans apart, the similarities between 2008 and 2018 are uncanny. Despite having a whole decade to learn and grow, identity politics once again dictate most of the discussion, acceptance is at an all time low and anxiety is reaching epidemic levels - more so than Obesity.
Released alongside an anthology of gritty, Two Hands-inspired short film video clips, it’s safe to say that Misery is for the Severed Ties fans grown up. Misery felt like it wasn’t meant to be played loudly through car speakers, but at an appropriate volume through headphones. Misery is introspective; it’s personal and it’s certainly not about to throw down and party. Misery was produced by renown studio-dweller Matt Squire and is a prime example for less meaning more. Whereas Severed Ties was an sonic explosion, Misery is an exercise in minimalism, while still being total post-hardcore alchemy. It may feel as though Misery brought with it the same since of electricity in the air as Severed Ties, but it’s safe to say that could be the only similarity between the two albums.
That, and the fact that they were written, recorded and released during times of great social, political and economic unrest. Though the issues are different - when was the last time anyone mentioned ‘subprime mortgage’? Ok, granted, Kevin Rudd is still around, somewhere, but the issues posed by him in 2008 are long gone, instead replaced with new and trendy ones including the rising of populism and the ‘strong-man’.
While it’s impossible for Amity to have the wherewithal - or the insight - to predict when a society will be in a state of transition, as it was in both 2008 and 2018 - Hell, the band may not even be aware of it themselves - it can be argued that their honest, personal, unassuming and endearing songwriting - just like that on Severed Ties and Misery - is what we look for during our darkest times.
Written by Mike Hohnen - A Music journalist who isn't just good...he's good enough