To celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band, Amenra took up something of a residency in London earlier this month, with this show taking place one day before Desertfest, in which Amenra would also perform a standard set, a DJ set (full of ’90s rave bangers) and vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout also performed as CHVE in a collaborative set with drone artist Syndrome; certainly a worthy celebration for the Belgian band that have become so influential and often imitated in the realms of sludge and post-metal.
Taking the stage first, though, is newcomer A.A. Williams, who has become immensely popular just off the back of her debut EP released on Holy Roar earlier this year. Tonight’s performance is suitably all dressed in black and stripped back. In contrast to her heavier debut set we witnessed at Roadburn Festival a few weeks prior, Williams goes without her drummer this time, and sticks to keys and vocals. Her gloomy, melancholic songs and passionate delivery stunning the crowd into a respectful silence, she represents the songs from her EP incredibly well tonight, but hearing new songs is even more exciting, proving that her future is full of great promise.
Adding a violinist and backing vocalist, Belgian sludge-masters Amenra utilise projector visuals, and in a neat touch, lead vocalist van Eeckhout – here proving the power of his clean-sung falsettos – sits with his back to the crowd, echoing the stage presence of their heavy sets. The band still come across as very intense, but in a rather different way. It’s fantastic to hear songs from their acoustic EP Afterlife being performed, and hearing some of their heavy songs reinterpreted as stripped-down interpretations is fascinating – the pained silence between notes only building the tension. Stripped-back performances of ‘Daiken’, ‘Nowena | 9.10’ and ‘A Solitary Reign’ send chills down the spines of attendees tonight, but it’s a surprise rendition of Tool‘s ‘Parabol’ that sends people into rapturous applause. Amenra conclude this emotional tour-de-force in style, with each member walking away one at a time, leaving a lone looped guitar arpeggio cycling before fading into silence.
For an insight into how the night unfurled, scroll down to check out a gallery of images courtesy of Abi Coulson of Darktones Photography.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
Photography: Abi Coulson (@darktonesphotography)