PICK OF THE WEEK: Amenra smash their volcanic sounds with raw emotions on monstrous ‘Mass VI’

I don’t always go to all the shows I want to see. It’s a combo of a few things from working long days, needing time for exercise and nourishment, and just not feeling like driving longer than what feels comfortable. Every now and again I miss a band and totally regret it (Tom Petty this past June, for example) or I don’t get to see a band because of bad luck.

This past July, I flat out missed Amenra’s opening slot on the Neurosis/Converge tour. I was a block away, trying to grab a pre-show meal and beer, and I thought the show started later than it did. I caught the last five minutes of Amenra’s set, which still blew me away, but I’ve regretted missing the bulk of their set since. Now that Amenra’s fifth crushing full-length “Mass VI” has arrived, I feel even dumber. These guys are gargantuan monsters whose mix of post-metal, doom, and sludge is ungodly heavy. The six songs on this new record are some of the best of their run, a record that sure as hell should make a huge impact, especially among the Neurosis/ISIS/Cult of Luna fanbase. The band’s concentration on sadness, depression, and darkness never has been thicker, and the way the music rolls out of them, it’s almost like a personal demon exorcism right there in front of you, bleeding from your speakers. The band members—vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout, guitarists Mathieu J. Vandekerckhove and Lennart Bossu, bassist Levy Seynaeve, drummer Bjorn J. Lebon—themselves went through their own trials and tribulations, from watching loved ones suffer with disease to taking on new parental roles. All that chaos is plastered all over this thing, and goddamn if it doesn’t feel like a self-cleansing when it’s all over.

“Children of the Eye” kicks off the record, and it’s a 9:41 cut that starts eerie and cold, as if we’re spiraling into space. A riff slowly formulates before it, along with the song, explodes to life. Wild shrieks rain down, while the pace pounds way. The sound hangs in the air, hovering over chugging guitars, and then cleaner singing emerges, sounding foggy and disorienting. The earth’s crust erupts again for a moment, as crazed growls wail, and the band deals heavy blows, but then it all dissolves into tranquility. “Edelkroone” is a quick interlude that’s spoken dryly, and then it’s into “Plus Pres de Toi,” that goes a healthy 8:40. The song rushes with melody and anguish, as cries scrape flesh off the face, and the tempo feels volcanic. We ease up a bit, with the song taking on calmer waters, and the singing feeling more melodic, before the assault starts all over. The band lays waste from here, with the vocals leaving ample bruising, their pain spilling all over the floor, and the song fading into the distance.

“Spijt” is a second interlude, also containing speaking but bursting into a fireball of intensity that leaves a trail of ash right to 9:04-long “A Solitary Reign.” Prog-folk-style riffs get us started, as van Eeckhout calls, “I see distance in your eyes,” a line he threads through the entire song. The band expertly applies soft/loud dynamics, as the singing eases and stabs, and the music follows the same pattern. Mournful sections flood heavily, as the band continues clobbering behind, and the twist of growling and singing stretches, adding to an emotional swell that slowly dissipates. Closer “Diaken” is the longest track at 12 minutes, and it gradually leaks into the scene, getting off to a plodding start before completely combusting. Guitars slice the flesh, while the band hits a melodic stomp, and their outburst of menace makes the calm section that follows feel like being brought up from under water. Cleaner guitars create a tributary, as the signing registers softly and vulnerably before devastation returns. Monstrous shrieks and playing that feels world-toppling join forces and create a seismic force that could, and probably should, end worlds.

Amenra have made incredible, volcanic sounds going on two decades now, but it’s their sixth record “Mass VI” that should be the one that makes their largest crater in the underground metal scene. This is an emotional bloodletting, a record that feels as heavy psychologically as it is emotionally. These guys lived every moment of these songs, and now they hopefully can sweat and bleed away every note of their creations.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.churchofra.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://neurotrecordings.merchtable.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.neurotrecordings.com/

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