2. AMENRA, ‘De Doorn’ (Relapse)

There are records that seem more like living beings, breathing through you, bathing you in their nourishing blood, becoming a portal to something else you didn’t even realize was accessible. They stick in you, they accompany you into dark and light, they become something of a companion as you battle your way through whatever trials and tribulations stands before you. They’re a part of your fabric, and you can’t imagine your path without them.

For the past 21 years, Belgian beasts Amenra have defied convention when it comes to their band and their creations. Members comes and go, all of which eventually get indoctrinated into the Church of Ra, meaning they’re always part of the body, and until now, their full-length creations have been labeled a “Mass,” ranging from I to VI. That last part changes with the release of “De Doorn,” which translated means “the thorn,” their first album that deviates away from a mass but never sacrifices any of the spiritual linking that solidified this band—vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout, guitarists Mathieu Vandekeckhove and Lennart Bossu, bassist Tim De Gieter, drummer/percussionist Bjorn J. Lebon. They’re joined by backing vocalist Caro Tanghe (of the mighty Oathbreaker) on this five-track, nearly 47-minute album that centers on the themes of dialog and the passing of knowledge, which is given more intense treatment through the dual vocals and long passages of speaking that often feel like a hush.

“Ogentroost” emerges from the mist and lets sounds waft over, numbing you as guitars drip in, and a long section of speaking pushes the plot. The track then opens and scorches, delivering heavy blows as Tanghe calls out in the background. The track keeps finding new ways to break open, the shrieks rain down hard, and a huge emotional deluge takes you prisoner, scraping your psyche. The latter half of the track is used by AEW wrestler Malakai Black as his ring entrance, which is one of the most mysterious in all of pro wrestling. De Dood In Bloei” expands as sounds envelope in an ambient cloud. The pressure soothes as Tanghe speaks through layers of time, almost like a prayer, capturing your imagination and treating your wounds. “De Evenmens” begins with shrieks striking and frantic pounding making your heart race before more dialog clouds your senses and helps you melt, language barrier be damned. The final two tracks are the longest, beginning with “Het Gloren” that’s a healthy 11:31. It opens slowly as the doom collects, giving off a strange haze. As the playing starts to swell, the shrieks devastate, and fiery chaos licks the surface of the earth, with the vocals continually ripping hard. “Voor Immer” is the closer, bleeding for 12:42 and starting in a heavy murk as guitars drip and quiet singing trickles. The bulk of this track is quite reflective, an exercise in patience as you await the highs and lows. There is even a gentler pace at times, letting you float along as the guitars drain. About 8 minutes in, the hammers drop and wild shrieks peel back flesh, leaving you exposed. Genuflect in awe in front of the altars of the Church of Ra. (June 25)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/churchofra

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/b/amenra

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/

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