It’s been five years since Amenra’s last rite, Mass V, although there has been a lot going on in the Church Of Ra universe with side projects and stripped back acoustic sets. The Belgian band have always erred on the avant-garde side of post metal and with that comes a greater appreciation of music as an artform – possibly even the reasoning behind lengthy gaps between studio albums.
Following the release of Mass VI, possibly the quintets’ greatest achievement to date, we got the chance to talk to frontman Colin H Van Eeckhout about the album and the evolution of the band.
Amenra’s name is taken from the Egyptian deity who was essentially an amalgamation of two Gods. How, if at all, is this reflected in your music?
It comes from Catholicism and Egyptology in our case. We took the “Amen” as an end of every prayer, meaning “so be it”, “it is what it is” – dogma. And the Ra is indeed from Ancient Egypt’s deity Ra – the sun god, or god of all gods. Symbolizing all Life.
Life comes in all its glory, for the better and for the worst. We have to find our ways in life. Knowing that there is Light within the darkness is true knowledge. You have to find the force to look for it always.
The heavy vocals seem more visceral this time around, while the clean vocals are more delicate.
Delicate, What is this an indicator of? Evolution. Evolving as a musician, and growing more sure of ourselves.
VI feels like it goes through a very linear journey from start to finish, is there a particular narrative being told throughout?
It is the same narrative as always. From our first album to our last. We are whom we are, and our story will pretty much always be the same. We never over analyse, nor do we plan all of this in advance. We have written down our emotional trajectories from the last 4 years and bundled them into an album. You read a chapter of our collective diary.
There are at least 3 languages being used, did you feel particular lines needed to be accounted in one language over another? How did you go about incorporating all of these languages into one coherent narrative?
It’s our story, it’s one story. Life. So the different languages emphasize the fact that there is no ‘one’ language here to tell that story. It is universal. It belongs to all of us.
But it is true that some things sound better in a certain language. Wordplay goes deeper or makes more sense. There is more beauty in it sometimes.
Have your recent experiences outside Amenra (such as with Oathbreaker & CHVE) influenced how this album was written?
That is a question you should ask the Oathbreaker members. But logic and reason oblige me to think, that everything we have done throughout our existence as a band, has influenced us. We all influence each other, we live and we learn.
There are two versions of the album, both mixed by different people, how would you say they differ and do you have a favourite?
They have different nuances, a different feel to them. Some intros are longer than others. Things like that. Yes, I have a favourite and other members have other favourites. And I presume other people will have favourites as well.
You are well known for having powerful live performances, do you think this album will translate well on stage too?
I would assume so. But that is something that will evolve in time. They have to grow on us live. We’ve played them a couple of times now, and I only heard good things. So I would say yes, I think it will.
Recently, there seems to have been more recognition for avant-garde/post-metal heavy acts such as yourself and Neurosis. Do you think that is because people are more prepared to challenge themselves with their listening experiences nowadays? If yes, Why do you think this might be the case?
I have no idea. Maybe people start appreciating more thought through music, and I am not talking about technicality here. Music that deals with the core of humanity. Music that tells it as it is, without masks or shadows. I think the people are ready now for this type of music and maybe weren’t ready yet 10 years ago…
Where and what next for Amen Ra?
EU tours, US tours, Japan, Australia.. a lot of Belgian shows, special shows.. Time again for the other projects to write and record new things.
Looking forward to new projects and so forth. An acoustic full length.
Mass VI is out now, get your copy here. Amen Ra will be touring Europe with Boris in the new year.