For more than 20 years Amenra has been at the forefront of creating music which is the definition of catharsis. Fuelled by the band’s individual bereavements and led by the harrowing vocals of vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout, the band has wilfully engendered a cult-like following through its journey of bleakness and striving to find light through dark times.
The Belgian post-metal outfit are a band who have always had the ability to capture the feelings of raw emotion in a musical form, and they have never been afraid to balance tenderness with heaviness in their sound. Through the band’s history their series of Mass records have been a way for the band to self-reflect on life’s pains, to set a ground and rhythm for introspection. However, the quintet’s new record – and first released through Relapse Records – De Doorn, steps away from the Mass series and cleaves more closely to the band’s live experience than the visceral feeling of their previous recorded output.
De Doorn showcases Amenra displaying a more immersive and spacious sound than demonstrated in the past, but at the same time brings together all the elements of the band’s crushing heaviness and violence that has afforded them such fandom over the years. The record’s closing track “Voor Immer” is proof of Amenra taking a more stripped back approach to this record, with half of the near 13-minute track utilising very sparse instrumentation and van Eeckhout speaking very softly through the track – almost to a whisper creating an intimate bond between artist and listener. But once the volume is turned up once more the feeling is almost euphoric, with the juxtaposition from tenderness to sonic enormity producing a truly intense rush through the body of the listener.
It is in this grey area of light and dark, contrast and shade, where Amenra really are at home. For all the subtext and emotive nature of Amenra’s music, the way they craft a song and their musicianship can never be questioned. For the first single released from the record ” De Evenmens” the band show that even in their heavy tone they can create catchy hooks, and the lead riff that runs through the song is one that will swirl around your brain long after the song itself has come to its conclusion.
This is also the first Amenra album to be sung entirely in Flemish, which not only allows the band for a greater range of expression through the intimacy, allowances and layers of meaning granted by their native tongue, it takes inspiration from Flemish forms such as Kleinkunst, a folk-based musical wave driven by storytelling. And if there is one thing that van Eeckhout has proven over time is that he is a phenomenal storyteller through the medium of song.
In classic Amenra style the songs aren’t exactly short, but the band manage to utilise every single second of their songs and there is not a missed beat; even at their longest the tracks never feel like a slog or that they are outstaying their welcome. Even though De Doorn is a departure thematically for the band, it is most definitely a show of what titans Amenra are in the heavy music world.
De Doorn is out June 25 via Relapse Records and can be ordered here.
Words: Tim Birkbeck