Recently signed to Neurot Recordings after nearly a decade spent burning menacingly in the darkest recesses of the underground, Belgian five piece AMENRA have just released their latest effort, unceremoniously entitled “Mass V”, a theme continued from previous recordings. As one would expect from an act on the record label of the mighty Neurosis, we are dealing with a serious case of sludge here; a dark, impenetrable mire that ensnares the unwary and drags them down into unfathomable black depths.
Broken up into four movements each roughly lasting around 10 minutes in length, “Mass V” sounds simply massive throughout, helped by a production job that allows the instruments to stand out from each other as well as combine to devastating effect. ‘Dearborn and Buried’ begins with some barren chords before launching into a punishing assortment of droning riffs, hypnotic drumming and anguished howls. The feeling is overtly apocalyptic and calls to mind “Through Silver in Blood” by Neurosis, the biggest influence on display here by a country mile. ‘Boden’ follows a similar formula with its quiet build-up, but the riff that comes crashing in is worth the wait; a thunderous behemoth that undulates in realms of both sludge and post metal while the quieter sections and barely audible spoken word passages that follow call to mind Cult of Luna playing the music from the 28 Days Later soundtrack.
‘A Mon Ame’ is lent an inherently stark feel with its opening chords that hang in the air like mist above the ground in the early morning light. The pace gradually begins to quicken with vocalist Colin H. Van Eeckhout alternating between vaguely tribal croons and Jacob Bannon-esque yelps while the band progress onwards with a solid marching post metal riff. However it’s the quieter passages that work best as the sense of threat is allowed to build in the background, ready to spill forth with little warning. Final track ‘Nowena I 9.10’ first offers us a strangely catchy clean sung refrain from Van Eeckhout until the inevitable wall of noise smacks you full in the face. The band opt for a slower approach this time round with the mournful riffs given added weight with the steady drums pounding away underneath, as if to leave the listener in no doubt that the end times are very nigh indeed.
Wearing their main influence proudly on their sleeve, AMENRA, have nevertheless delivered a worthy and punishing addition to the sludge metal canon that while not quite up to the level of that legendary and terrifying band, is one that demands repeated listens for its astute grasp of quiet/loud dynamics and overall god damn heaviness. This is one Mass you certainly won’t fall asleep during.