Boris and Amenra are an excellent pairing; both purveyors of hyper-heavy, forward-thinking and crawling tempos, and both having brought stupendous releases to the fore in 2017, and the two sharing a bill is a no-brainer. Tonight’s venue is Heaven – a venue acclaimed not only amongst London’s LGBT scene, but equally regarded amongst London’s live heavy music scene as a top-tier venue.
Rocking up to Heaven slightly late, as Japanese drone geniuses Boris’ wrecking ball soundscapes are in full swing is no bad thing. Literally shaking the room, and any and all attendees eardrums with the earth-shattering frequencies of their malevolent heaviness – Boris have the crowd exactly where they want them; enthralled by an immaculately rendered performance of latest release Dear in full. Drummer Atsuo is arguably the star of the show here, from her calculated mastery of Boris’ crawling tempo to her epic Messiah Marcolin-esque croonings – or, as the set culminates, her vigorous banging of a temple gong – add layer upon layer of depth to the group’s sound.
Boris’ epic, droning reverberations are a transcendent experience – allowing the human body to breathe through total immersion amongst finely layered noise. At its culmination, their set is viciously earth pounding, liberating one’s body from earthly mundanity through their crawling noise, and arguably results in Boris stealing the show. Heaven is an excellent venue (and air-conditioned to boot), and the venue’s excellent acoustics allow Boris’ sound to flourish.
Unfortunately, between artists, a 40 minute changeover is necessary, killing some of the buzz generated from Boris’ meditative onslaught. Luckily, as Amenra take the stage, Heaven is still abuzz with anticipation. Preceded by a solid ten minutes of rumbling dark ambient, the band get going. Preluded by a rumbling mass of dark ambient noise, the band’s eagerly awaited performance of last year’s acclaimed Mass VI is immediately tightly honed, and as soon as the first note rings out (which consists of Colin H. van Eeckhout rhythmically sounding off on a cowbell, because why not?) Amenra have the crowd in their grasp.
From it’s quietest whisper to it’s most ear-shattering wall of riff, Amenra’s cathartic crescendo keeps the audience on tenterhooks throughout. It’s a testament to Heaven’s high standard of sound quality that bands such as Boris and Amenra – who pride themselves on complex sound design – are able to perform so coherently. The band’s cathartic onslaught is overwhelming – filling the room with the angst and melancholic abandon so integral to their cavernous, multi-faceted sound.
Performed against an avant-garde film and punctuated by rumbling ambient noise, Amenra’s oddball status is not in question here, neither is their status as noisemongers extraordinaire. The wonderful thing is that Amenra conjur exactly the same atmosphere live as they do on record – with their back to basics approach to blackened, hardcore-inflected sludge translating perfectly to the live environment. Every single note seems built to enhance the band’s emotive musical violence; heavy and as their performance of Mass VI develops, incredibly varied in its myriad textures.
But most importantly, Amenra sound just as vital as they do performing Mass VI as they do on record – no mean feat considering they are a band very nearly into their twentieth year of existence. Vocalist Colin Van Eeckhout sounds just as angry, pissed off at the world and eager to spread Amenra’s cathartic spirit to any and all in attendance and the rest of the band’s backing tightly wound to boot. It’s interesting to note that there is very little in the way of moshing or pushing throughout – Amenra’s performance is far too engrossing for casual, endorphin-inducing violence.
And in the exact same abrupt manner Mass VI ends, so does Amenra’s show – there are no thanks to the audience or self-indulgent bowing to the crowd, or calls for an encore, only silence, and self-reflection as the lights go on.
Words: Richard Lowe
Image credit: Graham Berry