The Abyss Stares Back #1
02 June 2014
Hypertension Records’ The Abyss Stares Back split series is one that will surely be closely watched due to the names and sounds involved. Their first instalment features the cathartic tones on the incredible Amenra alongside their fellow Belgian countrymen VVOVNDS (pictured above), and other planned releases will see Scott Kelly, Primitive Man, Alkerdeel and Hessian lined up against each other.
Here we hear the more stripped back side of Amenra – think ‘Nowena| 9.10’ from the stunning Mass V of 2012 – with gentler progressions and gorgeous clean vocals taking precedent over the harder position that Amenra usually take. It’s no less emotional for the slower pace and Amenra are beautifully adept at creating soundscapes and feeling in their music, whether it’s punishing in loudness or in sentiment. The three new tracks on The Abyss Stares Back #1 are still devastating but this time it’s in a different way. ‘Wear My Crown’ opens the band up to a different kind of intensity and while the delicate picks of guitar and the bittersweet words wrap their elegance around the song, Amenra still pull at your core and wrench your heart, albeit in a more subdued, subtle manner. ‘To Go On And Live Without’ falls with measured grace, the slow burning atmosphere steadily moving towards finality but never getting ahead of itself and instead Amenra allow the song to unfold organically and wonderfully. The quietude is magical and Amenra still consume despite the apparent tranquillity of their sound here.
It’s in stark contrast to VVOVNDS five featured tracks which burn in fury and play completely against Amenra’s side. The short, punchy songs are fired through with a more vocal rage that previously heard and the quartet spin hardcore into their own violent manifesto. ‘Zwart Zunne’ pushes through to create a heady atmosphere of aggression while ‘Bricks’ completely tears apart any semblance of peace that Amenra created. VVOVNDS are an ardent project and their frustration and anger is clearly heard in their music. They channel that wrath deeply into their music and as such their songs spill with venom, using that intent to work through their frustrations and make it to the other side.
The Abyss Stares Back #1 is an excellent start to a series which will challenge and leave room for reflection – albeit in many different ways and sounds. Amenra and VVOUNDS may be polar opposites in execution here, but their message is still the same – the world is fucked, but there is a way through.
Sounds like: Neurosis, The Black Heart Rebellion, Oathbreaker
Standout tracks: To Go On And Live Without, Bricks