We we watched Amenra perform live at Damnation Festival 2012, it damn near burned our eyes out and tore our ears apart. The apocalyptic blend of intense power and sonic textures in the Belgian post-metal outfit was something else entirely. Hugh Platt sat down with the band’s frontman, Colin H Van Eeckhout, a few hours before our transcendent live experience, to find out just what makes the Belgian five-piece so compelling.
How would you describe the new record to people who haven’t heard it?
I think it’s really low and slow, kind of entrancing music. Because it’s…we work with repetition a lot you know? We noticed when we started writing the album, we never like set a blueprint of what we wanted to write. So we just start writing and see where we ended up, and we kind of notice after a while that it was a lot slower and heavier than whatever we had done in the past.
We also noticed with the former records that when we write a song and record it and play it for five years, and we see that we play it a lot slower always. It slows down after a while. And that’s probably how we got into the slower and heavier thing. I think it’s the kind of music that pulls you in you know? Sometimes even if you don’t want to, it can lure you in because of the repetition. It’s like a machine that draws you in.
Since the last album you guys have been experimenting with playing more unusual spaces. Would you say that experience affected the arrangements? Or is the process unchanged?
The process is pretty much unchanged, the only reason why the weird locations are being used is because it makes more sense for us to play and it adds to the whole idea of what we are doing in the first place you know? It just makes it make more sense to us to not really play in a circus tent for example but play in a forest or a church. We haven’t played our first note yet and you already feel the dark cloud hanging above your head as a way of speaking you know?
Do you think the records on their own are able to encapsulate that as well?
Yes – we use a lot of different art forms to try and create the same thing or same feeling. The music in a way is the most accurate form to play with the emotional thing. To reach into someones heart. Or grab someones throat. The different places we play or the artwork we choose to use or the visuals we use live or the video clips we make, all add to the whole thing. All the things can stand on their own but if you like throw them all in together they reinforce each other and make it one bigger fortress if you want to put it that way.
I read that you guys were planning on doing another book. What can we expect from that?
The first book was like really more of a thinking exercise about what influences us and what we see around us. There were a lot of picture in there about stuff we just notice when we walk around in life. Things that inspire us or also poems, lines together with imagery that makes sense to us, and also an interview or two and some lyrics in there. Also a sort of essay someone wrote about our music, or what we do with our music. But the new book is more…more of what we have tried to write ourselves, our personal experiences with everything.
Our guitar player, Lennart Bossu, is writing a lot for it. And then also a lot of people from our close circle who really know what it’s about. But it takes a long while because we are not really writers, we are musicians first and foremost, and we try and like go as broad as possible. So it’ll mostly be a long essay part about pain, about a ritual aspect of life, rites of passage that our lost in our modern society; but we believe younger people kind of look for sort of things that our kind of. I know the word in Dutch but not in English!
“Making sense” is not a good translation, it’s not serious enough. In the past people had religions or ways to act when stuff is going wrong. They go burn a candle in a church, or pray.
I think people will always be looking for something to hold on to at certain points in life. That’s the stuff we make almost philosophise about, think about or make conversation about. It’s about that religious aspect of the music and trying to find more in music than is normally looked for.
This is your first album that’s going to be on Neurot Records. On paper it looks like one of those things that’s a shoe-n – you on Neurosis’ label.
We’ve always stayed beneath the radar. We’ve never taken the logical path to take. You start a band, you start to tour and open for bigger bands, do you know what I mean? Then blah blah. But we’ve always toured on our own because we felt more at ease to do our own thing. We didn’t aim at getting bigger audiences, you know?
We just did our own thing and we were happy with the crowd that was there because they were really there for us, and not the band behind us. We just kind of took a gradual, we didn’t do the exponential growth thing, exploding into a hype. We laid low and just did our thing for a long while. In the end, we also get noticed. But it was certainly something we didn’t dare to dream of. It is the most rewarding thing to be accepted by the label or the family. Anyway.
In addition to Amenra, you’ve got an awful lot of various side projects. At the moment, you have the new album coming out in a week here. So that’s your prime focus. What’s in the pipeline for your various side projects?
Right now we’re focusing on Amenra so it’s where we shift the gear lower with the others. Our bass player is in a band called Black Haven. Then we have Oathbreaker, which is our guitar player’s side-project on Deathwish records. They just toured the UK too in the last few weeks. They’re recording a new album again next year.