Arguably Belgium’s current biggest name within heavy music and founders of the artist collective known as Church Of Ra, Amenra stands not only at the forefront of Europe’s post metal but as one of the most intense live acts one can witness. While their last full-length dates back to 2012, the band has been active in the meantime, with several split records, a book, a considerable amount of concerts with an increasing number of them on an acoustic setting (another one of which is coming up in next year’s Roadburn), and all the other solo and Church Of Ra related activity.
Thus, it seems only natural to see them return to Amplifest as headliners of the second day. Moreover, it might be one of the last outings of the band in Portugal for the upcoming times, with the band seemingly moving towards a period of exclusive music writing and recording, as expressed by vocalist Colin H. Van Eeckhout in the short conversation we had with him before the festival.
Last year you played Hard Club’s second stage during a Church Of Ra event, while your first in Portugal was during Amplifest 2012. Looking back at those two shows, how are you looking towards your return to Amplifest?
Same as I look onto every concert. But it is a fact that we have always been received in a very warm way, by the audience as well as the organisation.
The festival will also see feature a Church Of Ra band playing Portugal for the first time, Wiegedood. From your experience seeing them, what can the audience expect from the show?
You recently had a few acoustic shows, among them one in the Marlcave, a beautiful cave in Belgium. Can you tell us how they came about and whether or not do you see the recording of “Afterlife” back in 2009 as an important first step towards that happening?
Of course if we would not have written acoustic songs, we would not have played them in a live context. When we wrote “Afterlife”, we did a small amount of acoustic shows. It is definitely a thought through decision that has a future. We love exploring different emotive ways. There is no explanation of how the concerts came about, we felt like the time was right for us to play some acoustic shows, as well as start writing new acoustic songs. We just do what we feel we need to do for ourselves.
Can you tell us a bit about how the adaptation process of the non-acoustic Amenra material went?
We switched to acoustic guitars and started playing our songs, some felt right, others not.
When we talked to you in 2012 you said that despite not enjoying playing live, it was something you had to do. It seems to me that the intensity you put on the performances works somehow as a catalyst of release for you, something that due to their more contained nature is less prevalent when you do an acoustic set. How does your mindset vary between these different mediums?
Very much so. The heavy sets are my comfort zone. We chose to explore the opposite, to stand clear of all that could give us cover; volume, movement and darkness. In both cases we are vulnerable, but now every breath we take onstage is well documented and heard. Nowhere to hide.
Slightly over a year ago, you opened for Neurosis in Germany and while you opened with “Nowena | 9.10”, Scott Kelly did not reprise his role in the record. Is that something that will always happen even when he’s on the same building or could it happen at some point?
I don’t know. I look at how I would feel about doing a guest appearance before I have to do a concert of my own and I know I would not really be keen on doing it. So I just project it on Scott. I believe his shows should be the main focus for him, not ours. I just let logic or reason guide me in that decision. But it could happen again, if the stars are aligned I guess. It’s not up to me alone.
It seems that Church Of Ra events have become more frequent over the years, not only in Belgium but visiting new countries such as Portugal and Russia. Is that something you’ve always wanted to do more and now that the band has a bigger reputation and notoriety gets easier to do?
I believe we want to do the opposite, and do less and less CORshowcases.
With Amenra musicians often involved in Church Of Ra bands, do you see these other musical outlets as having an impact in Amenra in terms of allowing its members to explore different aspects of their songwriting and eventually discover something that they then bring to the band?
We do not imply rules on our membership. Everyone is free to do whatever he or she wants. We all learn and grow out of our own individual experiences. We share our knowledge.
You’ve recently released the book “2009-2014” through Consouling Sounds, whose website describes it as offering insights into what Amenra stands for. Can you tell us something about how this project came to be and whether it will be available in Amplifest?
It probably won’t be available, since we are carrying everything on a train/van/airplane/van/by foot. So you have to realise that bringing tons of merch isn’t the easiest thing. We aim to bring instruments above all, so we can play a show. We have been wanting to make a book for over seven years, tried several times with different people but never got there. Mike from Consouling and Stefaan Temmerman put their broad shoulders under our arms and helped us succeed.
Since Mass V you have released four splits. However, only the one with Treha Sektori featured an original song, even if some of the others are acoustic versions or live recordings. Looking back at your past splits, the presence of previously released songs is not that uncommon. Why is it so?
Because we write a new song every two years, and it would not be wise to immediately put it on a split 7″ or something.
Regarding any future releases, is there anything you could share with us?
We will stop playing live and focus on what we love, making music. Building our legacy through art, image and sound.