How do you begin to review a band like Amenra? To talk about them in the usual terms of instrumentation and production, lyrics and arrangements; it just feels reductive, like trying to write a haiku about the Old Testament. The true Amenra experience is equal parts religious ritual and existential nightmare. The band have spent the last two decades honing a signature blend of post-metal and black metal that is utterly cataclysmic. They are as much an endurance test as they are a band, and ‘De Doorn’ is no exception.
‘Ogentroost’ opens the album with soft synths that start out warm and almost comforting, but with a menacing undercurrent that gradually takes over until a sparsely picked guitar part stalks its way in and melts into the existing foundation. A spoken word section, delivered like an incantation in the band’s native Flemish, then guides the listener towards the climax of this section before a shockwave of distorted sound marks the arrival of Amenra’s true power.
It’s easy to write “heavy” music, but it’s not easy to write music so heavy that it feels like you’re being physically moved by it. When Colin H. Van Eeckhout’s scorched vocals come in, it feels like your skin is being slowly peeled away by the sheer force of his tortured shrieks. When the haunting melodic vocals of Oathbreaker’s Caro Tanghe begin to weave in and out of the screams, it feels like a spirit has been summoned to witness your body being torn apart. As the song becomes more and more tribal from here, the ritualistic atmosphere grows until finally the main riff decimates anything left of the listener, leaving nothing but scorched earth where they once stood.
This album is the absolute opposite of “accessible”. Lead single ‘De Evenmens’ is absolutely dripping with melody and texture, but it’s all underpinned by such an overwhelming feeling of dread and oppression that it’s often difficult to feel anything other than helpless. There are moments of calm and respite throughout, but not enough to have time to recover from those incandescent vocals and the devastating pulse of the relentless riffs. The dizzying spoken word sections, which are all in Flemish, sound otherworldly and will add another layer of bewilderment for anyone who cannot translate them. There’s no escape from this record, although there are moments where it tricks you into thinking there might be.
In case it wasn’t obvious, ‘De Doorn’ isn’t an easy listen, but it’s still well worth your time if you have any interest in grief-stricken, emotionally weighty, crushingly heavy music. To truly appreciate this record, it needs to be the listener’s sole focus. You can’t have this on in the background while you cook dinner or do homework. Lie down, turn the lights off, stick some headphones on, and let Amenra consume you.