Summary : The sound of apocalypse.
Ah, Amenra, Belgium’s best export since the saxaphone. For those that don’t know, they play an extremely unforgiving, crushing, bleak, riff-heavy, doom inspired form of post-metal, and they play it really, really well. This is the climax of the sound they’ve been forming in the shadows for the past 12 years, and it deserves your full attention.
First things first, let’s get the Neurosis comparisons out of the way. Yes, Mass V is clearly inspired by them. Yes, they’re signed to the label that Neurosis members formed. Yes, Scott Kelly has a guest vocal spot on the closer Nowena | 9.10. But it would be doing Amenra a huge disservice if you were to write them off as one of the countless clones spawned by those legenendary post-metal pioneers. Mass V is more of a doffing of the hat to their influences. They have progressed their own sound, have their own style and have absolutely made their own masterpiece.
The album kicks off with ‘Dearborn and Buried’, a slow and crushing wave of desolation that showcases the hollow screams of Colin H. Van Eeckhout and sets the tone for the voyage that awaits. A fantastic mid-section that channels Cult of Luna’s ‘Finland’ breaks up the bookends of brutality, and whilst the track doesn’t do anything inherently new, it serves its purpose and leads seamlessly into ’Boden' where we finally see where Amenra are going with Mass V. The incredible layered riffs and frantic vocals capture what I imagine the end of the world would sound like. Where as Deadborn and Buried was setting the scene of foreboding chaos, Boden is the unrelenting sound of depressing hoplessness. There’s a certain emptiness that is crafted that I can’t quite articulate. The long meandering guitars and rhythmic repetition of the drums set a backdrop that is unescapable.
This leads on into ‘A Mon Ame’, the albums longest and most tranquil track, if you can ever describe Amenra as tranquil. Here we are met with a soundscape; a slow burning feast of feedback that is eventually layered with droning guitar loops and ethereal vocals that drift in and out, until panic hits us like a ton of bricks and Eeckhout delivers some chilling screams over a pulsating downtuned riff. I won’t overdo the play-by-play, but the track closes with one of the best post-metal segments I’ve heard in years. The calm after the storm, it seems.
Then Act 4. Nowena | 9.10 feels like the aftermath of what has come before. If the world ended with Boden, then Nowena is the delayed repenting echo of destruction. One final crushing cus-de-gras of layered post-metal follows a beautiful clean opening, and then silence. The story of Mass V is complete.
This is probably the most hyperbolic review I’ll ever write, but it’s rare that an album can tell such a captivating story whilst wearing its influences so proudly on its sleeve. But, Amenra have done that. Mass V an absolute juggernaut of an album. It carries every feeling of despair, hopelessness, fear and anguish you can fathom, yet it’s still remains oh so beautiful.
My favourite album of the year.
Review by Isaac Powell.
You can follow & contact me on Twitter @IJPowell
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