Amenra, De Doorn (Relapse Records, 2021)

The importance of anniversaries and transitions of all kinds can be taken for granted. Depending on your view of the world, your supposed place in "society," etc., there is an almost arrogant and obnoxious approach to life that is viewed with an air of immortality or at least that actions and choice have little consequence.

One of the primary reasons I've enjoyed Amenra's music for over a decade now is that nothing is done without purpose. The weight of every decision is given the utmost respect, and it doesn't come from a holier than thou place of pretension. This is a group of artists who come together with a clear vision and no compromise.

Their first on Relapse Records, De Doorn, is an impactful and precise example of growth and strength developed over time. For those unfamiliar with Amenra, the band celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019. The visuals utilized by the band for their various releases have been a priority throughout their entire history, and an art exhibition was curated in their home area of Belgium at the Cultuurcentrum De Steiger Menen.

Along with the museum exhibition, they performed a fire ritual and collaborated with the visual artist Johan Tahon. Recently some of the footage from that evening was shown as a live stream show, De Kroone; as the fans who tuned in were able to realize, they heard the music now released as De Doorn.

While these 5 songs may not have originally been foreseen as coming together in the form of a full-length record, there is no denying the connection and structure they all create.

Another example of how the visuals enhance the listening experience is that one of the pre-release music videos done by trusted artist and friend Dehn Sora for "De Evenmens" pulls you in immediately. There will be a video or visualizer for every song released soon, and they can all be found through the Relapse Records YouTube channel.

All the songs on De Doorn are written in the Belgian dialect, Flemish, a native language from the Flanders region of Belgium where Amenra is collectively from. Vocalist Colin Van Eeckhout made an effort to translate the lyrics into English as best as possible. Still, there are moments where the musicality of the words takes over, and I honestly believe the listener's interpretation is welcome to take priority.

I've at times introduced friends of mine not accustomed to heavy music via Amenra because Colin's vocals have as much of an instrumental role as they do in presenting language with which meaning can be found. 

While I would say it's important to hear these songs from beginning to end as one whole album, both "De Dood in Bloei" (Death in Bloom) and "Het Gloren" (The Dawning) have become favorites of mine in my repeated listening over the last week and a half.

Both show the stark contrasts and blending of sounds and texture to be found throughout the record in their own way.

Photo: Stefaan Temmerman

The vocal performance by both Colin and Caro Tanghe expresses in equal amounts the fragility of existence and the strength you can find and build upon in an impermanent world. The instrumental collective of Amenra: Tim de Geiter, Lennart Bossu, Mathieu Vandekerckhove, and Bjorn Lebon are as tight as ever and put forth an album that I feel comfortable saying is one of my favorites from 2021.

On a closing note, for those interested in owning a tactile showing of the curated art show hosted at the same time as the fire ritual, Consouling Sounds created with Amenra, a beautiful book entitled Het Gloren

Recorded by Tim de Geiter at Much Luv Studios in Lembeke, BE and masted by Frank Arkright at Abbey Road Studios in London, UK. De Doorn is available now through Relapse Records and Consouling Sounds.

Tagged: amenra