Amenra – Alive (Consouling Sounds)

Tuesday, 19th April 2016
Rating: 7.5/10

Still waiting for a proper follow-up to 2012’s quite underrated Mass V, Belgium doom/sludge maestros Amenra have made the bold, but not totally unexpected leap into acoustic territory with Alive. This goes without saying, but, playing acoustic is basically like operating without a net. Mistakes are magnified, while the literal core of a song is exposed. Therefore, if a song can’t translate well acoustically, then chances are it can’t hang even when backed up by molten guitars and drums.

Captured live (at various undisclosed locations; you can even hear some audience chatter at times), Alive finds Amera operating at a totally minimalist level. If we’re going to make some type of connection to the post and/or apocalyptic sound Amera normally displays, then it would be the recent stripped-down, barren, acoustic work of Neurosis main constituents Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till. Both are utter masters of their craft, capable of breaking down bare-bones songs into something fully digestible. Amenra follows suit, as the meditative and sparse tones of “To Go and Live Without” or the melodic peddle found on “Razoreater” are poignant, calming stabs in the acoustic dark.

A cover of Tool’s “Parabol” is handled effortlessly, with the band working in the nuanced cadence to powerful effect. Elsewhere, a few of these songs are culled from the band’s Afterlife EP, which features female guest vocals from Sofie Verdoot, thus adding more atmosphere and hushed, quiet tones. And while it feels like Amenra is simply cleaning out their catalog closet with Alive, there is inherent value in hearing a naturally heavy band go the opposite route. You can’t teach dynamics.

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