‘Mass V’ brilliant metal music
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08
As the fall semester dies down and music websites, journalists and the tastemakers of the industry compile lists of the best music of the year, there is an unsurprising yet aggravating lack of major albums released. The “important” albums are on the cusp of or have already been ranked on the iMac of elite critics, whetting their lips as they “define 2012 in music.” It’s honestly hard to contest the upcoming release calendar on Metacritic–the respectable review compiling website–contains only four new albums including Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire,” and to that, I say “God, no.” Hidden in the dark crawlspaces of this week’s releases lies Amenra’s fourth full length, “Mass V,” a gritty sludge metal opus beaming with life and swarming with micro yet haunting surprises.
The Belgium five-piece band has been creating precise, reverb soaked sludge metal since 1999. “Mass V” is the product of years of hard work and the nurturing of a densely packaged take on sludge metal. What separates Amenra from their contemporaries is how well they build lush walls of quiet restraint before obliterating them with animalistic shrieks and thick bulldozers of guitar distortion. The opener, “Dearborn and Buried,” shakes with raw guitar chords, and blooms into an earthquake of pounding drums and Colin H. Eeckhout’s forceful bark. Eeckhout’s screaming is more reminiscent of hardcore bands such as Converge or the mathcore shrieks of the Locus rather than the guttural shouts typically found in sludge metal. Eeckhout has got some range, though, eerie spoken-word refrains (“Boden”) and ghostly choir chants (“A Mon Ame”) where the band collectively takes a deep breath and walks through graveyards creates an expansive listen. These segments of minimal guitar work and slow build-ups of lush drums create a tension that enforces the harsher side of Amenra.
In the likes of black metal and drone, “Mass V” is about creating mood rather than metal music, demonstrating how chaotic the genre can be. The four songs (all of which exceed the nine minute mark) that encompass “Mass V” are never flashy in their musicianship or song structures but show how the contrast between slow build-ups and earth-shattering guitar riffs can create a disturbing experience. Where Converge’s “All We Love We Leave Behind” and the Chariots’ “One Wing” demonstrated the best visceral brutality of heavy music in 2012, Amenra is memorable for its restraint, the ability to push boundaries by making less noise at times. Patience in Amenra’s case breeds an epic release in “Mass V,” a disturbing singular event and one of the year’s best metal releases. It might not reach any “best albums of 2012” lists but will most likely hang on to the listener’s skin for months.