One of the most prolific post-metal acts, at least in the European side, Amenra helped shape the sound of sludge and doom combining with post-hardcore influences. It has now been 14 years since the band started out, releasing its Prayers and performing their Masses, establishing a work of great continuation. However, this is the longest wait between full-length releases for Amenra, and Mass VI comes on the heel of their acoustic live record Alive. The live album suggested a certain moment of introspection for Amenra, an attempt to focus on their work so far and find ways to propel forward.
Even though Mass VI does not deviate from the previous works the band has produced, it still finds them continuing to perfect their craft and enhancing their sound. Working again with legendary producer Billy Anderson, someone who understands the intricacies of heavy, experimental music and has worked with the band before, Amenra return to form. The repetitive melodic lines, acting like mantras are there, introducing the record with the mesmerizing start of “Children of the Eye” and dragging you down into the core of the music. Many bands attempting to use repetitive forms tend to lose their scope, ending up with boring tracks, but Amenra have a clear handle on the technique, understanding how it should be structured to maximize impact.
Amenra have always been capable of awakening this sense of imagery that good post-metal music can bring forth. The heavier parts of “Plus Pres De Toi” are filled with this sense of movement and grandeur, building an epic perspective one strum at a time. Incorporating ambient passages within the long form movements is another element that builds narrative cohesion for the band, dropping into a clean interlude, something that exposes a contrasting side to their heavier or melodic manifestations. The fact that everything is wrapped around the post-metal mentality of progression boosts all these elements to no end, with the band not only taking the repetitive form of the genre, but also building an impressive movement for the track, constructed step by step and augmented to point of an impressive crescendo.
There was always something very moving about the way in which Amenra produced tracks, being capable of retaining a very personal and humane perspective. Filled with emotion and purpose, this remains the case with Mass VI. No matter if the band is implementing a melodic lead or drives a harsher outbreak, the emotive purpose still remains. Emotions run through the band’s work, and the vocal delivery enhances this aspect further. Eeckhout is capable of delivering some outstanding screaming performances, with the full brittle of a hardcore vocalist, and then perform a complete 180 going into clean vocal mode and setting a stunning trance.
It comes down to the perspective and goal that exists in the artist’s mind. Amenra know themselves very well, they understand their sound, its capabilities, its influences and its power and they do all they can to maximize its effect. “A Solitary Reign” is a perfect example of their identity, making using of an ear worm mantra-like melody, slowly digging its way into your brain. It is a subtle and yet mesmerizing tool, that can be presented in a stripped down form and then switch to a heavy part. It shows the range and versatility, but also the magical simplicity behind the formula the band is using.