With no previous exposure to Amenra, the band which I am involved prepares to play a show with them knowing only that they are from Belgium. In the weeks leading up to said event, the support of fellow Belgian outfit Rise and Fall impacts me personally and intrigue begins to set in my mind. Well, let me just say that Amenra blew my mind that night (even without their notorious video display) with their brutish, full sound and droning bludgeoning. The experience still vividly sticks in my mind. Mass IIII is the latest album from this Belgian five-piece and continues where their previous record (appropriately titled Mass III) leaves off and further explores the avenues which the band is descending.
Ominous ambient tones mark the beginning of the lead track off Mass IIII, "Silver Needle, Golden Nail," prior to different instruments slowly joining in with arrangements to match that of the mood which Amenra sets right from the get go. The band's use of dynamics not only sets the mood, but it aids in building the tension, particularly with the slow burn approach the musicians use with the song. A brief (roughly four beats) rest precedes the explosive, loud section that the band builds toward; the vocals of this section add a desperate sound to the music while the brief glimpse of guitar melody plays counter to brief moments of discordance and the occasional quiet part. "Le Gardien Des Rêves" is a loud, droning nugget of a track that actually gives listeners breaks from the hypnotic sounds to slow down and display an excellent dual guitar section while the vocalist sounds like he is being tortured or begging to not be. Amenra returns to a longer format or length for "De Dodenakker" and that is a good thing because the band really seems to excel with the additional time in the song, using it to establish the mood and really let the instruments build a mesmerizing groove; the group jams so much sound into a finite aural space which seems like the music will completely overwhelm listeners, but then the band offers brief glimpses of melody to make the song that much more interesting.
"Razoreater" does its part in crushing the listener while at the same time offers one of the more compact arrangements on Mass IIII as it contains all of the elements of songwriting that Amenra put to use while at the same time not going on for longer than is needed to have the song impact the listener which sets this track as a good example of what the band can do. The seemingly calm, "Aorte. Nous Sommes Du Même Sang" fakes listeners out multiple times as the song plays out its arrangement; it definitely serves to expand the sonic palette of the album while still maintaining the hypnotic aspects of the other material on the album; when the whole band crashes together at about the midpoint of the song, the loudness truly has a distinct impact.
Mass IIII is an excellent record that (if given some US exposure) could allow for Amenra to really turn some heads here while continuing their progress in the old countries; the band is very under the radar in the United States due in part to their records being import only so far, and also due in part to the band only completing one US tour thus far. As far as the how the album sounds, Mass IIII's production quality is good with only minor complaints not really worth mentioning; the songs are all pretty bulldozing affairs that are moody while still being aggressive the whole time. Amenra need only more exposure in order to be noticed because the music is there; fans of Cult of Luna, Isis, Neurosis, etc. really need to check this album out for themselves.
Posted July 14, 2013, 5:35 p.m.
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