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Band Portrait: Amen Ra

img  Tobias

For the past months, Amen Ra have been on their very own neverending tour. Navigating between the lively crowds of Summer Festivals like Pukkelpop or the Ieperfest and the more intimate settings of clubs like Tilburg’s 013, they are taking in life on the road to the full. “With each other, it's like 'une fugue' de la vie”, frontman Colin van Eeckhout comments about the Amen Ra experience, “On tour, you live in the moment... You forget what time it is, what day it is. It's a beautiful feeling... It's like getting lost in the music.”

His description indeed applies as much to their concerts as to the intensity of their latest release, “Mass IIII” on Hypertension Records. The result of nine years of jamming and composing, it possibly presents their vision more clearly than any of their previous efforts. While the band lays down dragging soundscapes of halucinatory density, guitars sparking flames and drums pounding like a hammer on naked flesh, Colin screams at the top of his lungs, as though bereft of all that’s precious to him. Tracks like “Aorte” are dark meditations, painful and plaintive exorcisms convulsing like an alien with morning sickness – and yet catchy in a surreal and bewildering way.

Van Eeckhout agrees with these estimations to a certain degree, yet he stresses the fact that his band is not about wailing in self-pity and misery: “The music’s dark and somber, yes... But deep down there's light, there's hope. It's enchanting or hypnotic. It takes you in it's mouth and swallows you whole...”, he tries delineating the approach of Amen Ra, specifying “pain and hurt”, as well as “sacrifice in life” as the most important topics of his lyrics. The words to a piece like “Razoreater”, all but incomprehensible by ear, reveal this layer of vulnerabilty and pride on paper, a dark poetry wrapped in silky whispers: “Stay close and you will see that light will always reign over your shadow.and you will never die like I did. Your fire will always be inside of me. You will always be a part of me, the heart of me.”

Colin’s vocal delivery is certainly of a haunting immediacy and undaunting bareness – impressive and decisive for the group as a whole for some, a distraction from the oppressive wall of sound created by his fellow musicians for others. While he’s obviously disgruntled by this mag’s less positive estimation that “the music would possibly be even better without them”, Van Eeckhout’s desire “to get the audience to self reflect, to think about the things and moments in life they don't want to think about” implies that his texts are definitely not intended to “please” in an easy or obvious way.

The reception of the album in general and the positive response to their touring efforts indicate that the majority of listeners tends to value this uncompromising attitude. With their calender filled well into November, Amen Ra are set to spend the better part of 2008 on stage. So what can people expect when watching them live? “What you get to see is pure blooddriven passion. Sincere and honest music...”, Collin sums up their live show, “What you get to see is something real. This in my eyes makes it quite different from other bands.”

By Tobias Fischer

Based on an Interview conducted by Guillaume Dulhoste

Picture by Andrew Weiss

Homepage: Amen Ra
Homepage: Amen Ra at MySpace
Homepage: Hypertension Records

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