Review by Yener on June 12, 2019.
Time for another Mass.
There is somewhat of a trend in the metal industry. Perhaps even the music industry. When bands and artists are pounding out records once every two years. Some artists even do one every year. Never could really wrap my head around that. What's the rush? Doesn't an artist need to evolve and go through some stuff - like life - in order to talk about new experiences and new perspectives? I could never understand that. And I still don't.
Amenra are not one of those bands. And it's a good thing I am patient when it comes to experiencing new music. It's been 5 years since the previous Mass was released (Mass V), but as is usually the case with Amenra, the wait for new sonic landscapes are worth it.
Yes, sonic landscapes. Amenra - for anyone who has been following them for any amount of time - or are even remotely familiar with the name, knows that Amenra are not your typical band. I've heard them be labeled as sludge, stoner, doom and even… hardcore? Nevertheless, none of these titles matter here. Forget about them. Forget about them all.
Let’s get to the settings.
Vintage, open back sound monitors are appreciated, but not essential. Headphones, for this particular album, are highly recommended. A dimly lit room is suggested. Wait for the skies to darken. Perhaps rain, if you're lucky. Because no images this album will ever evoke will be that of the sun, light, or any form of happiness. This is made to take you into the complete opposite direction. This is made to take you into the scariest place of them all. The depth of your own mind.
"Children of the Eye" - it takes us nearly two minutes to hear any sort of melody. Then a lone guitar lurks in slowly. Ever so quietly. Ever so gently. The tension builds, slow and cunning. It takes over four minutes for the track to kick in. The tension is finally released. The band finally explodes. The collective weight of five years’ worth of frustration, depression, anger and despair fall on your chest. The wall of guitars and Colin's tortured screams pierce your ears and nervous system. Senses are on red alert. The hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention.
Amenra are back.
One of the rare bands these days, on this level, that instead of caring about financial issues, cares more about their music and their lyrics. That is the exact reason why they don't make albums often. Amenra is just an instrument, you see. The music needs to come to them. It needs to channel through them. They are merely transferring that what is submitted through them. They are not here to make money. They never were. They are here to share experiences, share life and death, and everything in between.
The images painted here are rather special. While Mass listeners will be familiar with most of them, there are also some new ones to be found here. As a whole, the band are still evolving. While previous Mass' were all mature records in their own right, this one I believe is different, even more matured and refined. Their sound is quite similar to what it was before and that's a good thing - I would not like to experience a Mass with completely alien sound values after this point. It just would not fit. The familiar tones welcome you in. And like any good film director which has their own style, it is the same concept here. As time passes, you get familiar with the tones (both sonically and visually) and visions the band creates.
The album also includes singing in French and Flemish. As demonstrated on previous albums, Colin is a very capable singer when he is singing clean, and it's a part of Amenra's sound that I've come to really love. "Plus Près de Toi" features some incredible verses sung in French.
Another thing to note about this album, are the odd time signatures. The general feel of the album is quite loose - I highly doubt a metronome was used during this recording, and if it was, then that's pretty odd. The drummer trails along the beat ever so slightly, just enough to give it that "wind" before a crescendo. The timing is almost always off by just a fraction. And it does not matter at all. The guitars, as we've come to expect, provides us with a wall of massive noise and suffering. As a contrast, they also provide some of the most gentle and delicate melodies I've heard in recent times. Pitch black and pure white.
The lyrical content, as always, is extremely well written, poetic and bleak.
"Come rain, wash us all away
Here come the first wave,
Nothing will remain
This is not easy to digest. One does not simply listen to Amenra and continue with their normal lives as if nothing happened. Because there is no ignoring this. And like all Mass albums, this is meant to be listened to as an album, not individual tracks. Anything else does not do it justice. This is more of a ritual than an album.
This is by far one of the best albums Amenra has ever made. I hope they can channel Mass VII out of them when the time presents it to them. I would be enthralled and honored to hear it.
Rating: 9.6 out of 10