Words don’t flow that easy when the opportunity to speak about AMENRA comes. Ever since i found this band, back in 2004, i never stopped following their steps. Albums like “Mass III” and “Mass IIII” definitely left a mark on me, so big that i still occasionally have the pleasure to revisit them once in a while. Soon came to my ears, from some friends who were touring in Belgium at the time, words about this ridiculously heavy band and a curious vocalist who sang with his back faced against the crowd. Speaking of AMENRA is not only about the music they make, but all that surrounds it. Since very early the band showed a special care and concern about visual aesthetics that serve as a complement to their sound. Making their live shows an unforgettable experience, both sonic and visual, to those to witness such performance. Everything this band makes, they put in their blood, sweat and tears into. Everything is thought to the smallest detail: every word, every image, every sound. Everyone i know that has seen AMENRA live, always tell me about how it was the best live experience of their lives coming out from a band. It goes beyond the skin, beyond the flesh, deep into the soul. No wonder their live performances are known as “rituals”. Their contemporary view offered through their music makes the most experienced and faithful listener renounce to their personal definition of music. Our body and soul are stunned by the crushing, repetitive chords layered with the sweet distressing sermons preached by the charismatic lead singer, and his unique vocal tone.
Added to the Neurot clan in July 2011, AMENRA saw this opportunity as a dream come true. Following Neurosis on tour, the relationship between the two parties only grew stronger as they prepared themselves for an upcoming release, first by their new home. In last November the band wandered by their neighbor countries in search of inspiration for their next work. This trip took them to the village of Wissant in northern France, where they discovered a place carved by time, still carrying visible scars caused by the several battles that occurred during the Second World War. This decimated and devastated scenario would be the muse that invoke and stimulate the band to create “Mass V”.
The band revealed the following personal testimony on how they achieved the concept for the album:
“In November 2012, we left wandering by our own and neighboring countries. Looking for the perfect backdrop for the artwork for the new album. Few days after our trail ended at the village of Wissant in northern France. The site is a meeting of the destruction of World War II bunkers. Force and strength from these weathered buildings was overwhelming. Concrete blown to bits, hundreds of bullet holes everywhere, salt and sand before they were covered in blood.
We draw about these stone temples, this time, was a world of pain. We stayed overnight at the place and slept in one of the bunkers so that we are swallowed by the sea as the tide came in and when dawn brought the first light, Stefaan Temmerman took the picture, I knew it would be perfect to represent our MASS V.
It was a long, cold night ” – CHVE
In May, the band entered the La Chapelle Studios, a former chapel now converted into a professional studio to create and write this new chapter in their career, assisted by engineer Billy Anderson (Eyehategod, Neurosis, Melvins, Sleep, Swans) that would refine and take AMENRA’s sound to another level. “Mass V” presents us an AMENRA with a more stripped, sincere, intimate sound. Almost if a layer from the band was peeled off and we now face it’s raw flesh. Although we’re facing another surface, the whole essence in its pure form, still lies within.
As soon as the first notes of “Mass V” are poured slowly, the first sensation that hits me is that, sound-wise, it doesn’t exhale that same suffocating atmosphere that we have witness in the previous “Masses”. But although the sound presented here received another treatment, the whole pain, solitude and anger are deep inside patiently waiting for the right time to come out. Knowing that this would be the debut album coming out by the hand of Neurot, the expectation was very high and the anxiety increased as more and more details about “Mass V” were revealed. But on the other hand I remained peaceful knowing that “this is AMENRA”. I was sure that the band would never disappoint the fans.
Mingling minimalist atmospheric melodies with the most pummeling and powerful sludge, we move at a very slow pace into “Mass V”.
Starting with some very slow guitar chords, “Dearborn And Buried”, begins by outlining the path to perdition and it doesn’t take long until the distressing and unmistakable voice of Colin grabs and guide us into the depth of this brutal track where slow, dragged riffs fall upon us just like heavy waves breaking in slow motion. During the 9 minutes that this track lasts we completely lose track of time and space as well, as we are sucked down. “Boden” begins with that familiar style so characteristic of AMENRA, where the chords of the guitar get more and more tangled, increasing the anxiety and expectation in the listener. Because if you’re familiar with this band then you will know exactly what will happen next, you just don’t know when. And behold, the mountain collapses and falls upon our heads, its impact makes our soul shake in such a way that it almost shatters like glass. Monolithic riffs are thrown at a very slow pace until a crack of light breaks through this darkness as Colin’s voice soothes us, bringing some peace in a nearly spoken-word register but it won’t take long until we are swallowed by darkness again through these massive stuffed riffs.
“A Mon Ame” has its beginning in a sort of a environmental introduction reminding me one of the side-projects from members of the band, Sembler Deah. It draws these smooth atmospheric layers giving shape, in my mind of images that revolve around the concept of the album. A lucid black and white dream. After the battle, bodies lie on the sand, the blood flows into the sea and silence reigns. While this whole peaceful atmosphere penetrates deep inside, the whole band up with Colin’s voice, leads us into this almost trance-like state. Again, the fusion of the weightness with the more minimalist sections are made brilliantly and in a graceful way. The contrast between the anguished shouts and the whispering voice that speaks to us in a moribund tone, causes in us an inexplicable feeling of sadness and loneliness, embodying once again the eternal struggle between life and death, light and darkness, one of the recurring themes in the lyrics of AMENRA’s music.
“Nowena | 9:10″ the last, and in my opinion, the majestic track of this album, begins in a register as heard in the “Afterlife” EP, smooth acoustic notes pulls us into a more serene and intimate record when suddenly, everything falls apart. As if someone had passed us the worst news in the world making everything collapse and fall apart around and inside of us. Our emotions are thrown to the ground repeatedly, lying there, dying. As we watch, incredulous and helpless. Stripped of all emotions, the whole energy of this track runs through our body, recycling all of our feelings. It is impossible listening to “Nowena | 9:10″ without feeling a strong shiver that runs through our body from head to toe. Every time I hear it I get goose bumps and I’m pretty sure that Colin’s screams will haunt me for the next months to come. This track perfectly expresses the ideology behind AMENRA, about the pain that resides in and out of us. The eternal solitude that moves and gives us strength to face the pain. Never trying to escape and get away from it. Instead, looking her straight in the face, eyes to eyes, and pushing forward. Fearless. One of the highlights in track is the special appearance of Scott Kelly on vocals, certainly a dream come true for the band, the fact that one of their idols participating in one of their tracks. The result of this collaboration is at sight. Wonderful.
This is probably the slowest, heaviest and intrinsic album to date. During about 40 minutes, our emotions are swept and swallowed in this maelstrom of feelings that is “Mass V”. With this fabulous album the Belgian band puts another glorious milestone in their career. A brilliant album that leaves us completely hooked and begging for more. If you are still blind, hear “Mass V” and witness with your own eyes one of the most magnificent albums of the year.
The band will continue touring as they are already confirmed for both Assimetry and Roadburn next year. AMENRA also announced the launch show of “Mass V” on December 22 – a predicted event, which sold out in record time, as soon as it was announced – will now be broadcast live for his fans around the world can not attend the event.
AMENRA Live And upcoming Festival Performances:
12/01/2012 Db’s – Utrecht, NL @ Le Guess Who Festival w/ Oathbreaker
12/22/2012 Ancienne Belgique – Brussels, Belgium *record release show w/ Oathbreaker, TBHR, Scott Kelly
1/11/2013 Machinefabriek – Groningen, Netherlands @ Eurosonic Festival
2/10/2013 De Kreun – Kortrijk, Belgium w/ Eleanora
2/16/2013 Perron – Ieper, Belgium @ Winterfest
2/22/2013 Burgerweeshuis – Deventer, Netherlands w/ TBHR
2/24/2013 Mod – Hasselt, Belgium w/ Hessian
4/19/2013 Patronaat Church – Tilburg, Netherlands @ Roadburn Festival
European Tour 2013:
4/25/2013 Glazart – Paris, France w/ TBHR
4/26/2013 Epicerie Moderne – Lyon, France
4/27/2013 Boulevard Rock Club – Misano Adriatico (RN), Italy
4/28/2013 Traffic live club – Roma, Italy
4/29/2013 Lo Fi club – Milano, Italy
4/30/2013 Gaswerk – Winterthur, Switzerland
5/01/2013 Arena – Wenen, Austria
5/02/2013 Feierwerk – Munchen, Germany
5/03/2013 Conne Island – Leipzig, Germany w/ Syndrome
5/04/2013 Klub Firlej – Wroclaw, Poland @ Asymmetry Festival
5/05/2013 Bi Nuu – Berlin, Germany
5/26/2012 Stuk – Leuven, Belgium w/ Oathbreaker
AMENRA have also just posted three short tour documentaries, filmed and artistically presented by Jeroen Mylle, captured on the road with the band over recent months. View all three mini-films below:
AMENRA I. from daydreams on the road there is no waking
AMENRA II. you stand now alone
AMENRA III. a change of light