The Church of Ra has long been established as a focal point for strength and unity within the Belgian metal scene, and indeed for artists and musicians beyond the country’s borders who find themselves drawn to their vision and artistic aesthetic. Amenra may have been the initial keystone, but the passage of time has yielded associations with a diverse assemblage of bands, artists and side projects, accounting for the profusion of releases that embody the respective (and often interconnecting) worlds of music, visual art and the written word.
When Gilles Demolder (Oathbreaker), Wim (Rise and Fall) and Levy Seynaeve (Amenra, Hessian) decided to collaborate on a new project, the product of their union was never going to sit quietly at the back of the room; the common denominator here being the undulating, blighted aural landscapes fashioned by these already-established acts, each carving their unique perspective upon the scorched earth with harsh and unforgiving hands. Wiegedood (Dutch for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a name that evokes incredibly powerful imagery, yet the unmitigated powerlessness implied by such a word becomes the foundation of the band’s sound; a broiling mass of hopelessness and disconsolation that is incredibly naturalistic and equally austere, creating an immersive wave of cold, atmospheric black metal that is more frequently associated with the Pacific Northwest and yet fundamentally rooted within Europe’s finest.
They may be an entity devoid of the intrinsic characteristics of their other projects, yet the black sun of Amenra casts its baleful shadow tenuously over De Doden Hebben het Goed; the downtrodden fury of opener ‘Svanesang’ as thick and impenetrable as much as it is breathtakingly paced, and even when the landscape becomes a place of near silence – a lonesome, mournful guitar note the only thing to break the uneasy silence – the atmosphere still speaks of desolation and futility that is as provocative as it is crippling.
Label: Consouling Sounds
‘Kwaad Bloed’ is the sound of a band truly finding their feet and executing their vision with the utmost confidence, commanding attention through strength of songwriting and compelling melody. These attributes remain at the forefront of their sound throughout, but the response is no less uncompromising; the lack of a bass guitar all but forgotten as the twin guitars leak their anguish upon the world.
There is a keen and instinctual sense of pace amidst the extremity; the experience brought to the table here breeding cohesion and variety, guiding and nourishing this superlative release. The breakneck drumming abates for the arrival of the more moderately executed title track; Levy’s screams a beacon in the abyss before the void opens once again and ‘Onder Gaan’ rains down its unrestrained intensity. Emotionally astute and utterly draining, De Doden Hebben het Goed is beauty in all the ways we have come to expect from the Church of Ra: bleak, atmospheric and unapologetically obsidian; the excellent production catalysing the experience all the more. It is a burden upon the soul; a hugely impressive debut and essential to all those willing to carry such a weight.