Review Summary: Just listen to it.
Formed in the Belgian city of Kortrijk in 1999 by vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout and guitarist Mathieu Vandekerckhove, Amenra pushes the boundaries of extreme music by appearing heavy in practically every conceivable manner; sonically, expressively and spiritually. Mass is mainly defined as a large body of shapeless matter or a number of people crowded together and considering the context of a band who has always focused on life’s darker themes- pain, misery, suffering, torment- it’s only prudent that all Amenra’s albums come with the prefix 'Mass'. No one evades the feelings that Amenra illustrates and often those sentiments are indescribable; how does one define a feeling when feelings are formless? The best cure is to come together and help each other.
Hence why it has been five years since the members of Amenra amassed to record another album, thus, 2017 marks the release of their sixth, shapeless, mellifluous, transcendent album. Overall, “Mass VI”
is the most naked, raw, passionate album Amenra has released and dissecting it reveals how steeped it is with the trauma of personal tragedies from each band member. Acting more as a platform for self-reflection than an enjoyable listening experience for around 40 minutes, confrontation, acceptance, sympathy, bravery, apprehension and god knows how many other nouns define the feelings that Amenra emanate over the duration of “Mass VI”
The instrumentation of their new album is simply colossal. As the guitars slither into the forefront of the mixing during “Diaken”, Colin’s vocals cower into the back beneath the oppressive weight of the riffs and the dominantly crushing feeling they emit. It’s as if the tidal strength and intrepid presence of these ensuing riffs temporarily extinguish the ferocity of his voice, especially when the lingering feedback suffocates the excruciating howls smothered underneath. Although, the tone that Amenra emanates isn’t suffocating to listen to. Admittedly, one of the band’s intentions is to act as a hopeful flicker of light to cling to in the immersive darkness but to translate that darkness, they produce a sense of utter helplessness by creating this overpowering presence through layered instrumentation and excruciating vocals. However, in “Children of the Eye” there is a sense of restraint where Amenra expose vast amounts of space for the comforting melodies to glide around naturally as if the band manage to catch a vital gasp of breath before the suffocating riffs drown out all sense of hopefulness once more.
Imprinted upon “Mass VI”
is the battle that each member of Amenra has fought with their own tragedies. Like pain itself, the thing with this album is that nothing is ever permeant. Sludgy, driven riffs twist into uplifting melodies which in turn are trampled by colossal, bass-heavy rhythms and for every fleeting moment of joy, there is always a downcast riff or droning drum beat sewn into the spiritual texture of each song. Although every song translates this duality, “A Solitary Reign” is singularly heart-wrenching. Much like how the soaring guitars contrast the imperious bass lines, Colin’s plaintive cries intertwine with his excruciatingly desperate howls in the final minutes of the song to create a truly cathartic climax.
Every member gives the performance of a lifetime, collectively striving to create the band’s most compelling work to date. However, Colin’s presence and performance are truly captivating. After the monumental guitars and stormy tremolo in the French-sung “Plus Pres de Toi (Closer to You)”, he desperately sounds as if he is longing to grasp the slightest shed of light that the guitars radiate. So close yet so far; in sight but out of reach. Even during the brief interludes, the fact that they are sung in various languages says something about the universality that the effect music can have on everyone regardless of the limited concepts in life like race, nationality and sex.
Something, where each sound imitates a unique feeling to every person, is difficult to describe in a general sense. In essence, the ‘Mass’ prefix is designed to translate a feeling of togetherness. Whether it be a group of people coming together, someone understanding themselves or something shapeless attaining definition, Amenra’s task has always been to act as a force that does nothing other than to bind the things in life that try to tear us apart, be it people or feelings.