The Amity Affliction – Not Without My Ghosts (Album Review)
The Amity Affliction – Not Without My Ghosts
Released: 12th May, 2023
Joel Birch // Vocals
Ahren Stringer // Bass & Vocals
Dan Brown // Guitar
Joe Longobardi // Drums
There are an infinite number of music groups out there that have worked tirelessly to taste just a shred of the glory that our very own The Amity Affliction have achieved over the course of their now twenty-year-long career. While their experimentations with sound have varied substantially throughout different periods of their time as a band, they have managed to come full circle with what is now their eighth studio album as they return to their heavy roots, creating a whirlwind of hype in the process. Can this new, heavy album from the Australian natives compare to some of the group’s heaviest albums to date such as fan favourites Youngbloods, Chasing Ghosts or even Severed Ties? Let’s explore and find out.
As I press play, I am familiarly greeted with the first single from the album ‘Show Me Your God‘ which begins with keys that quickly come to an end as Joe Longobardi leaves no second to spare, showing off his drumming skills with fast-paced blast beats. Beefy guitar riffs and pounding drums complement the raw emotional vocals that carry lyrics exploring the struggle with faith and connecting to a higher power. Throughout the chorus we are greeted with soaring clean vocals from the one and only Ahren Stringer, which has become a trademark TAA sound over the years. Choir singing is introduced in the lead up to the breakdown, leaving a burning desire to immerse myself in the next nine tracks. ‘It’s Hell Down Here‘ continues where the previous song left off – thumping instrumentals carry the single up to the chorus. The limelight is on Stringer and he doesn’t disappoint as he sings a catchy chorus that will no doubt be screamed by punters at live performances in the future. Joel Birch powers through the breakdown with lyrics “No more sunlight / No more dead ends / No more heartbreak / No more dead friends” leaving a powerful impression on me.
Next up is ‘Fade Away’ which slows the pace of the instrumentals just a tad, which allows the duo of vocalists to thrive in the moment. The ebb and flow between Birch and Stringer has always been exceptional, with this offering being no different. Each vocalist flourishes in the moment while leaving space for the other to do the same and the end result is spectacular. Heavy, low-tuned guitars take us into ‘Death And The Setting Sun’ where Birch flaunts his capabilities as a fantastic mid-range vocalist as he manages to scream with the instrumentals, rather than on top of them. Guest vocalist Andrew Neufield from Canadian hardcore punk band Comeback Kid gives his input early on and continues to step in and out of the track up until the breakdown, making his appearance nonpareil and leaving me questioning how they will replicate the uniqueness of Nuefield’s addition when performing on stage without him. Stringer’s vocal presence is dulled in this offering, his vocals aren’t as lively and high-spirited as what we are used to, however his performance in this song isn’t unwarranted or out of place.
The internet was sent into a frenzy back in February of this year when Amity released ‘I See Dead People‘, not only because it is one of the band’s heaviest singles to date, but because it doesn’t include any of Stringer’s heavenly vocals – which has become a trademark sound for the band over the years and is an element that is included in the vast majority of TAA songs. A smile from ear to ear appears on my face as I listen to Longobardi faultlessly punch through blast beats and fast drum fills while low-tuned, beefy guitars manage to chug chills down my spine. Stringer steps in with his eloquent unclean screams which are always more than welcomed, particularly on an offering with a faster tempo, such as this one. This track is made extra special with a guest feature from the late Louie Knuxx, a New Zealand born rapper who unfortunately passed away from a heart attack in 2021. The genre cross-over could have been considered a risky move, especially since the song already carries elements that have never been heard in an Amity offering before, however, the guest feature is an excellent touch that stretches the capabilities of this class act while also honouring the memory of the band’s friend Louie Knuxx in a special way.
What is undeniably an album highlight, ‘When It Rains It Pours’ continues on the heavy note that the previous track ended on. Intricate and layered guitar riffs sit behind the powerful prowess of Birch as he stretches his vocal range to new lows. A catchy chorus comes as no surprise as Stringer competently and confidently sings “As the rain keeps pouring, you’ll be forever falling”. Thumping drums build up suspense until we are met with guest vocalist Landon Tewers from Ohio-based metalcore band The Plot In You whose vocals are not something we asked for but is something we can all appreciate – Three world-class metalcore vocalists (Birch, Stringer and Tewers) screaming on one incredible masterpiece makes for what is nothing short of a phenomenal moment in the group’s career. Keeping the impressively fast and complex drum fills going, Longobardi takes us into ‘The Big Sleep’ where the group’s melodic roots come into play with a focus pushed towards Stringer’s cleans throughout the chorus, as well as a choir doing backup vox for the bassist which creates an easy and smooth listening experience.
Angelic femme clean singing repeating the lyrics “Don’t come too close to me” take us into ‘Close To Me’. Back-up vocals make a chime in while Birch stops to take a breath which at first listen seemed out of place but after a few spins, I find myself singing along to it and rather enjoying that element. The breakdown lyrics of “I don’t want to exist, but I have to survive for the ones I left behind” leave me reeling in my emotions as I take in the track’s true meaning of feeling as if you are dragging people around you down. Chugging guitars take us into ‘God Voice’ and even though I can see it coming, it isn’t long until I am blown away by Stringer’s melodic performance throughout the chorus. His voice is adaptable and breathtaking in its own right. There are only a handful of vocalists, clean or unclean, which after 15+ years of listening to them I find myself more in awe of their talent as time goes by… but Ahren Stringer is definitely one of them. An element I did not see coming in this mighty, melodic track however was the gloomy breakdown throughout the outro. It’s fit for any mosher who wants to let their frustrations out in the mosh pit!
Album closer and title-track, ‘Not Without My Ghosts‘ begins with an extremely slow guitar riff that virtually maintains its slow tempo until the song’s conclusion. Guest vocalist phem contributes in a duet style alongside Stringer, with some input from Birch. The closer feels out of place after listening to nine fast-paced, heavy hitters and then finishing things on a very slow note.
These Australian melodic metalcore heavyweights have delivered an album that will most definitely leave the haters and naysayers taking back every bad word they ever said about this band. We spoke with Joel Birch about the album and their intentions to go back to a heavier sound, make sure to read that too in the lead up to Friday’s release. Not only do The Amity Affliction still have what it takes, but this album will stand up strong amongst the best in their back catalogue for years to come.
The Amity Affliction – Not Without My Ghosts tracklisting:
1. Show Me Your God
2. It’s Hell Down Here
3. Fade Away
4. Death And The Setting Sun (feat. Andrew Neufield)
5. I See Dead People (feat. Louie Knuxx)
6. When It Rains It Pours (feat. Landon Tewers)
7. The Big Sleep
8. Close To Me
9. God Voice
10. Not Without My Ghosts (feat. Phem)
Not Without My Ghosts is out this Friday. Pre-Save here
Review by Adam Rice