• John Van de Mergel

Albums | Amenra, De Doorn


Zondag, de dag des Heeren, een dag waarop rust centraal staat, er niet gewerkt wordt, geen lawaai gemaakt wordt. Aan dat kieken dat de hele tijd zit te kukelen kan ik niets doen, ook niet aan die stomme hond die nu al een uur aan het keffen is. Kan ik echter wat tegengewicht bieden voor een omroeper die onverstaanbaar aan het brallen is bij een lokale wielerkoers een straat verder? Wat als ik nu eens De Doorn knalhard door mijn 7.1 Cabasse speakers laat knallen? "Meneer, zou het wel eens kunnen met je lawaai?" hoor ik de buren al snoeven. "Lawaai? Pardon hé, gij onwetenden, Amenra staat voor kunst, zowel met de k als met de K!" En àls we dan al iets luider mogen zijn op deze lome zondagnamiddag, dan is het toch wel op basis van K(k)unst zeker, K(k)unst met een sacraal karakter dan nog wel.


Amenra, we weten het, het is niet zomaar een bandje hé. Het collectief rond Colin H. van Eeckhout staat al langer voor méér dan muziek. Hun voorstellingen, al dan niet onder de bandnaam of gelinkt aan de band, bevatten gewoonlijk diverse kunstvormen, waaronder poëzie. Herhalen behoort niet tot hun woordenschat. Evolueren en zichzelf heruitvinden daarentegen zijn belangrijke drijfveren om te blijven gaan. Zo mag het uitbrengen van een album volledig in het Nederlands dan ook niet verbazen. Reeds eerder slopen Nederlandstalige fragmenten hun albums binnen, of brachten ze integraal Nederlandstalige liedjes (De Zotte Morgen en Het Dorp van Zjef Vanuytsel bv.). Eigen nummers volledig in de moedertaal daarentegen, en dan nog eens met hun eerste worp bij een Amerikaans label, dat is toch even een eigenzinnige en gedurfde stap verder, waarvoor alleen maar respect. Stukken poëzie/gedichten hebben ze ook al eerder op albums en tijdens concerten gebruikt, maar geïntegreerd in diverse nummers, ook dat is toch een nieuwe weg die ingeslagen wordt.

En ja, er wordt meteen ook afgeweken van die typische Mass saga, wat mij een slimme zet lijkt. Goed gekozen en goed getimed.


Puur muzikaal blijft De Doorn op en top Amenra zoals we ze kennen en zoals we hen omarmen. Je houdt van de Church of je vindt hen een zootje pretentieuze snoevers. Dat laatste vooral door mensen die graag oordelen vormen en om die reden alleen al arrogante zakken mogen genoemd worden. Amenra is Amenra, consequent in hun aanpak en voor zover ik kan 'oordelen' uiterst oprecht hierin.


Als ik één grote troef mag vermelden, iets wat op dit album pas écht helemaal tot zijn recht komt, dan is het de immense dynamiek gecreëerd door het subliem plaatsen van het gesproken woord en de zachtere passages en/of intro'ss t.a.v. de gekende emotionele gewelduitbarstingen. Ook het aantrekken van Caro Tanghe (Oathbreaker) als sparringpartner voor Colin bij Ogentroost en De Dood in Bloei is een meesterlijke zet. Het levert gouden momenten op, momenten die al het storend lawaai in mijn omgeving doen verstommen en zorgen voor een gewijde rust ... op deze dag des Heeren.



Releasedatum: 25 juni 2021


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Their first release for Relapse Records is at once a departure and a momentous act of deliverance. Stepping outside the run of albums titled Mass I-VI, De Doorn casts a 21-year journey from the heart of Belgium’s crusading hardcore scene to world-renowned, spiritually guided innovators in an enthralling new light.


Ritual, remembrance and hard-won rebirth have always been at the heart of AMENRA’s colossal, soul-purging approach. Centered around frontman Colin H. Van Eeckhout, but marked out by a transcendent unity of purpose, their albums have acted as totemic, personal marker points, a means to process individual grief as a shared, cathartic experience. Their live shows are acts of incendiary, communal exorcism that reach a cusp of sublime, out-of-body experience. A closely knit collective, they transport you to a febrile state where confrontation of pain, transformation and true healing can occur.


Written for the purpose of that rite, De Doorn (‘The Thorn’) occupies a place between AMENRA’s recorded and live work, less a testimony to the band’s individual bereavements, more an invitation for others to come forward, and to pass through darkness into light. Where the Mass albums have taken the form of solitary struggles whose fearless honesty has aligned itself to the most intrinsically human of chords, the dynamics of De Doorn are as stricken by destiny as ever, but sonically looser.


The first AMENRA album to be sung entirely in Flemish, De Doorn imparts a universal power by digging deep into local customs. Not just allowing for a greater range of expression through the intimacy, allowances and layers of meaning granted by your native tongue, it takes inspiration from Flemish forms such as Kleinkunst, a folk-based musical wave driven by storytelling, and the passing of wisdom through generations. Yet as with every AMENRA release, De Doorn is an act of observance that recognises the path travelled by fully experiencing the moment, as a rite of consummation, reckoning and deliverance. That state of transition is exemplified in the closing Voor Immer, a hushed, plaintively wracked coda that bursts into newborn, world-in-your eyes transfiguration where sheer, sense flooding experience becomes a blazing threshold where rupture and rapture become one.

A few minutes into De Doorn’s opening song ‘Ogentroost’, you will have already heard some of the main defining points of Amenra’s new album. Words that ring truer and more meaningful for being uttered strictly in singer Colin Vaneeckhout’s own mother language, spoken, whispered, sung, as well as shrieked in anguish like we are more used to. Colin and Caro Tanghe (a constant presence throughout the record), much more to the forefront than ever before, pouring their hearts and souls as a sombre, almost minimalist riff develops slowly. From gentle sparseness to a furnace of pain, you will barely feel the transition. More contrast, more extremes. Through it all, you won’t feel like you’ve wandered into the wrong house, but that at least someone’s changed part of the furniture.


So let’s look at the beginning of it all. Why do Amenra exist in 2021? Where does De Doorn

come from, and why has it taken this shape? As Colin and the rest of the band have often

explained in the past, all the Masses were born out of an accumulation of hardships in their own private lives. But now, there wasn’t anything spectacularly distressing going on. “It didn’t feel like a mass,” Colin says. “It’s a whole different thing. There’s a lot more storytelling, a lot more clean, acoustic parts, Caro is a big part of it too. With this album, a lot of the music was written during the last three years in function of the fire rituals we did in our country.”


Many artists now refer to their live shows as “rituals”, but in the case of the two performances Colin is referring to, that is exactly what they were. The first one was a performance made in conjunction with Vooruit, the big art centre in the city and Belgian-based Indonesian sculptor Toni Kanwa Adikusumah, who created a sculpture made of one tree that was on display in the art centre for a couple of weeks. In the piece were holes through which the people of the city were encouraged to drop piece of paper inside, their unacknowledged losses written on them. Their deepest sorrows, things that kept them heavy-hearted, that they wanted to get rid of. The sculpture was then moved to the city park, where the band set up around it and performed. Colin remembers: “We had around 2.000 people watching and we set the sculpture on fire together. It was all of us talking to the fire and asking it to get rid of those things that people wanted to go away.”


The second ritual also involved a sculpture, in this case a six meter piece made by Johan Tahon in honour of the band’s 20 years of existence. “We built a big wooden structure around the statue, covering it, and we set the structure alight so the statue would arise from the flames. It’s a brown bronze statue, but during the event it was so hot in the centre of the fire that it made the statue glowing red. It was a very intense moment,” Colin says.


The music created for these events was then worked on and better fleshed out, so that intensity and that connection to these rituals carried on to what became the album – that, and also the connection to the land itself on which the rituals took place. “I had some words, which I had started to write in Dutch/Flemish, because the events were set to take place in Belgium and the witnesses would be mainly Flemish-speaking,” Colin explains. “We’ve also done some Flemish covers on the acoustic shows in the last few years, and I think all of this helped me to develop a certain affinity for my own language. I started appreciating my mother tongue more, and felt I could go much deeper, be more poetic; have multiple meanings… As I wrote, I started to realise that this is us. It cannot be more Amenra than singing in Flemish. It cannot be closer to us.” Hence, all the words that you will hear on De Doorn are in Flemish. Translations will be provided, of course, but even for non-Flemish/Dutch speakers, the added weight and meaning is immediately noticeable, to the point that some feelings can even carry through non-verbally. “There is a kind of archaic language that remains intact, some poetic language that speaks to you from… above is a big word, but I don’t know. Something universal.”


Above all else, De Doorn is the album that most reveals the true face of Amenra. Their most

genuine expression. It’s as if time, age and maturity has brought them, slowly, from the absolute pitch-black darkness of their beginnings into the light, made them realise the purest reflection of our humanity lies not just in the pain but in the edges that separate light and dark. Colin, kneeling, his back to the audience, screaming in darkness, voice muffled by loud guitars, might just begin to – literally or metaphorically, we will see – finally rise and turn towards his people, receiving their words just like that tree sculpture received Ghent’s people’s words, and echoing them, more clearly, more thoughtfully, speaking from the darkness into the light. That is why Amenra exist, and are so essential, right now. The pain is still there – it’s just not alone anymore. ”Even in the mellow parts, the words are so…” Colin struggles for a description. “They hit you hard with their content. It’s not necessarily negative, but there is a lot of weight involved. Content wise, I believe this is the heaviest album we’ve done. It’s hard as nails in its own beautiful, poetic way.”


(Jose Carlos Santos)