Amber’s 2012 self-titled debut serves as an interesting point of reference for the rest of the band’s career, especially considering the band imploded last October. The remnants of the German five-piece’s main objective remain fossilized here: sprawling, intensified arrangements that swap back and forth between dirge-driven post-rock instrumentals and post-hardcore energy. Even if the vocals find themselves scorched behind waves of distorted crunch, their cries of desperation spell out Amber’s demise with grit-soaked clairvoyance.
Pick any of the five tracks on Amber and you’ll get, largely, a similar experience with each: insert two to three minutes of slowed-pace drums and equally lethargic, feedback-choked guitar before impassioned vocals kick in. The vocals rarely overstay their welcome — their brief intrusion on penultimate track “For Better or Worse” is a lesson in cruel understatement — and can deliver powerful effects when they desire to do so. Their bruised entrance and equally damaged reprisal on “I Wish I Could Dream” suggest an anxiety which may have dripped into their truncated tenure. “Cold Hands Warm Heart,” while establishing Amber’s formula as the release’s opener, delivers a glint of hope with brighter, open riffs and uprooted percussion. As previously indicated, however, this security and stability is ripped apart by a tension that comes through tortured vocals and equally-bothered instrumentation: the guitars seethe, the drums are pounded with reckless disregard for mercy.
For a document that begins (and ultimately, mythologizes) Amber’s legacy, this introductory post-hardcore portrait is as devastating as it is, at times, derivative. Perhaps that’s why Amber disbanded so soon after it banded together: it grew too fond of or too repulsed by its own blueprint.
While the songs may bleed into one another, the elements present on Amber’s debut stay separate enough to remain compelling. The vocals, appearing for the longest cameo on “For Better or Worse,” are free from obstruction when they decide to appear in front of the band’s smoky, tense soundscapes. The percussion pummels and punishes, but there are times when this loving care to the low end of the mix sacrifices higher tones — like the fuller guitars present on the release’s opening track. A thin layer of surface noise permeates through both sides of the record, but it’s nothing a thorough cleaning can’t fix.
A one-sided color lyric insert is also included, presenting the German band’s words in English. The first 100 copies included a black inner sleeve, while the remainder were given standard white inner sleeves.
Amber is Zegema Beach Records’ first release. The EP was pressed on black vinyl and received an initial run of 334 copies. No digital download is included, but the complete EP is available for free download on Amber’s now-inactive Bandcamp page.
“Cold Hands Warm Heart” & “I Wish I Could Dream.”
Photos courtesy of Zegema Beach Records.