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22nd February 2018

Live review: Amenra

Callum Lunn is converted to the Church of Ra by Amenra
Live review: Amenra
Photo: Callum Lunn @ The Mancunion

Sunday 18th February, Gorilla

There are few bands, nay, performers, that can instil total silence in an audience, and Amenra are one of those few. To the uninitiated, a metal band without mosh pits may sound like a lake without water, but it is here you will find it.

Let me preface this by saying I’m not a sludge (or doom) metal fan. I don’t know much of the genre and it’s not something I listen to personally. I first saw Amenra four years ago at a post-rock festival, Beyond the Redshift. I had never heard of them, but their absolutely breath-taking performance made me a lifelong convert.

Amenra drape themselves in religious symbolism; their name is the Egyptian god of the sun, their albums are numbered Masses, associated acts (including Oathbreaker) are members of the Church of Ra, their logo is a trinity and their music videos and artwork often feature churches, crosses, and crucifixion. Seeing an Amenra show is to me, an atheist, the closest to a religious experience I have ever been. Minutes before the show, the smell of Catholic incense wafted through the air, and thus the sermon began.

Amenra waste no time with pleasantries. The performance starts as soon as the band walk on stage, and ends when they finish their last piece. It’s important to highlight those words — it would be demeaning to say that Amenra make ‘songs’. It would be similarly degrading to call vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout a ‘singer’. Amenra seem often disconnected from the audience, making the performance as much of a personal experience for the band as it is for each member of the audience. Van Eeckhout spent much of the performance facing away from the audience, only turning towards it at opportune times.

As I alluded to earlier, there were no mosh pits — each audience member is consumed by the music in a shared, yet personal experience. I often found myself in a completely trance-like state, unaware I was even in a crowd. Amenra use indescribably intense sections of the music to create an all-consuming wall of sound, a chaotic yet somehow ordered cacophony. More importantly they contrast this with quiet, brooding build-ups which are at times near silent. These silent sections really show the grip that band create on the audience with near silence (anyone who dares make noise is quickly shushed).

The band opened with ‘Boden’, from 2012’s MASS V. The piece begins with a dramatic clanging of metal bars, followed by a long, slow, tense buildup. Behind them, on a large screen, stark black and white images were projected: a girl with the band’s logo, a church, lava, water flowing, a body suspended in a forest. Each piece was roughly 10 minutes in length, but for the duration of the set, time lost all meaning. Finishing with the more recent ‘Diaken’, the sermon concluded. What happened in that hour and fifteen minutes is an experience that a simple text review could not do justice.

I cannot put into words just how good Amenra are. If you get the chance to see them, do it. Don’t like doom metal? Nor do I. Give them a try, and you have my word that you’ll become a follower.


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