Belgium’s Amenra are one of those bands that consistently produces quality material for a comparatively modest but incredibly devoted following. Having been around since 1999, collaborated and toured with a wide array of other acts, and even started their own artistic collective with Oathbreaker, Black Heart Rebellion and others called Church of Ra, Amenra are nothing if not dedicated to their craft. All the better that said craft happens to be a mesmerizing mix of doom, post-metal and hardcore.
With their latest album, titled Mass VI, Amenra have iterated on what worked best on the previous entries in the Mass series of albums, with better songwriting, more brooding atmospherics, and more dark spirituality. As with many veteran acts, they’ve chosen an evolution rather than a revolution of their sonic palate, and with such strong foundations, it works very well.
Mass VI is a dark, intense album, and it’s not something a listener can digest in a single sitting. Perhaps due to their close ties with Oathbreaker and others in the Low Countries extreme music scene, Mass VI is their most overwhelming and oppressive album to date. The transitions between the quiet and the intense feel more natural and effective than they ever have, and all six tracks work cohesively as individuals and as a whole. An excellent mix and master by Jack Shirley ensures every layer of the music is defined and audible.
Opening track “Children of The Eye” combines all the musical elements and thematic motifs Amenra are known for into one nearly twelve minute long song, and serves as a good indicator of what you’re getting into with this album. The slow, tense buildup from the droning intro slowly joined by strummed clean guitars to the explosion of fury a third of the way through when the band shift into full post-metal mode is an excellent showcase of the band’s songwriting abilities.
Amenra have always injected a religious aspect into their music and aesthetic, from the name of the band, to the name of their artist collective, to their visual aesthetic both in concert and in the design and layout of their album packaging. But perhaps nowhere is this interest in dark spirituality make evident than in the music itself. Previous albums in the Mass series have been brooding, hypnotic and churning walls of sound that ebb and flow like funeral dirges or dark hymns to forgotten gods. Mass VI continues the band’s refinement of this sound, taking elements from all five previous albums as well as their collaborative EPs and splits, making Mass VI a subtle, effective evolution of Amenra’s core sounds and possibly their most diverse, complete and well realized album to date.
Post-metal is seeing something of a silver age of genre greats either making comebacks from periods of dormancy, older bands producing new and exciting works in the genre, and a fresh wave of younger bands who are proving themselves fit to carry the torch from acts like Neurosis and Isis. Amenra, however, have spent the last eighteen years producing a body of consistently quality music, and Mass VI is no exception to that. This is an excellent time to be a fan of this genre, and Mass VI just another notch in post-metal’s already impressive belt.
Mass VI is available 10/20 via Neurot Recordings.