At times Amenra seem like the answer to an ancient riddle or koan – a band who appear locked in sonic place yet manage to carve out ambitious new territory with each successive release. Inward focus, self knowledge and a belief in spirituality without religion have played as big a part in the band’s sound as riff-craft and sludge informed sonic purges. It’s allowed them to stay true to their core while having the courage to embrace a collectivist approach to art that’s brought theatre groups, dancers and film-makers within their ever-expanding Church Of Ra.
De Doorn, the band’s first album for Relapse – and the first to break with the ‘Mass’ series that has marked previous releases – is as huge, stately and emotionally devastating a piece of work as you’d expect. Riffs creak, yaw and crack like ships being splintered by encroaching pack ice, while Colin H. van Eeckhout howls like a man whose soul is being scooped from his writhing body. Hushed arpeggios and introspective spoken-word passages offset the chest crushing heaviness, while clean vocals – some provided by Caro Tanghe, of Ra members Oathbreaker – wend their way through the darkness like a successful search party emerging from thick, all encompassing fog. These moments of light are rare but powerful, representing the infrequent glints of reward that life carelessly tosses in amid all the shit, or the thunderbolts of self-realisation that can strike after intense periods of personal strife.
Charting a course between heartstopping heaviness and minimalistic introspection, De Doorn represents the latest stage of personal and philosophical growth for a band who have survived 20-plus years toiling in extreme music’s pits and used periods of intense personal suffering as fuel to drive them forward. As ever, the results are nothing less than monumental.
De Doorn is released on June 25. Pre-order the album on Amazon now.