Amenra’s 2016 release, Alive, from Consouling Sounds is a compilation of live acoustic performances from 2014. Comprising that track list is material from Amenra’s 2009 EP, Afterlife, acoustic renditions of songs from Mass III, covers of two songs, and appearances by Belgian-poet Sofie Verdoodt. All totaled, Alive is a 10-track live look at Amenra in new territory.
In 2003 Amenra released their first full-length record. Mass-I was a six-song debut that marked the beginning of a band that has continued into 2016, growing and challenging itself along the way. As vocalist Colin H. Van Eeckhout noted in a recent interview with Scene Point Blank, the years spent in a band is not without self-discovery.
“The constant reinventing yourself without changing into something you never intended to be. It's difficult to shut out influences, or mold influences into something new, converge them with your own musical biotope,” he says.
Alive features songs that present the many layers of Amenra given the acoustic approach and spirited difference from their heavy sets. We asked Colin about the preparation for acoustic performances.
“The acoustic approach to our creative process obliged us to work with a different part of our emotional spectre. In my eyes we do the same thing over and over again, and that is 'telling our story,” he says. “There’s an even more vulnerable side to it. There is no 'fight' in there, it is no battle of sorts like the heavy sets. You sing and play from the loneliest place on earth.”
Also featured on Alive are acoustic renditions of "Aorte" and "Nous Sommes Du Même Sang" from their 2008 full-length, Mass IIII. Having played those songs in a "heavy" electric live format, the acoustic performances prove to be new territory for them as musicians.
We asked Colin to describe the setting and the feeling of the playing acoustically in a live setting with an audience.
“There is a constant complete engagement in every song, otherwise it just doesn't work. I can't say it is easy with the acoustic shows to go on automatic pilot, and lose ourselves in the acoustic live set, it's still too hard on us,” he says.
A band whose songs are known for their immersive quality Colin reveals the sincerity in Amenra’s performances and the importance of engaging with the music and the audience.
“The more people you know in the audience, the more anxiety. You just don't want to let anyone down and since you're all being nervous like hell, it makes it harder than ever for us to lose ourselves in it. On acoustic sets everything is magnified, a breath, a crack of the chair, etc.”
As for the comparison between the heavy sets with the acoustic sets, Colin replies, “Not comparable.”
“We are more vulnerable in the acoustic sets, it feels like you're alone in the open at night.”
Amenra’s 2016 release, Alive, captures these feelings Colin describes. Alive also features covers of Tool’s "Parabol" and, from the late Belgian musician Zjef Vanuytsel, "Het Dorp."
We asked Colin about choosing to add these songs to the acoustic sets, and subsequently, Alive.
“The covers we chose, came through time. Tool has always been an inspiration to us and it felt like the right time to honor that. As for Zjef van Uytsel, we felt like we had to make a bow to our heritage. Belgian kleinkunst is quite the genre, brutally honest and poetically magnificent. We had recorded the "Het dorp" cover to be featured in a short film by Willy Vanderperre, since it reminded us of where we come from. The small rural villages in Flandres, it perfectly describes the air and light we grew up with.”
After many listens, and these responses, it becomes clear that Aliveis steeped in sincerity, and carries with it the weight of musical challenge that Amenra embraces. They are conscious both of their experience, and that of the audience, no matter the performance. They embrace the connection from floor to stage; it is part of the energy. If it feels like this is a band with many layers, I absolutely agree, and as listeners we may find something new with each of Amenra's records and live performances.
Alive is a beautifully recorded live record. It captures a band willing to put itself in a vulnerable position to tell their story in a new and enthralling way.
Speaking of the preparation, fine details, or large components that gave the acoustic performances weight, when asked if any particular component stood out, Colin replies,
“It's all weight for me.”