The Church of Ra – comprising Belgian outfits Amenra, Wiegedood and Oathbreaker and sharing members between them – is a wildly inventive Cerberus which nevertheless tends to remain largely within the confines of its Metal boundaries. Colin H van Eeckhout is often regarded as the titular head of that movement but RASA (Consouling Sounds), the debut solo effort from the Amenra frontman, is moving, ambient drone with little of the growling anger usually expected from the genre.
The bumph accompanying the one-track album tells how its creation has tapped into the man’s emotions. Initially however, the effect is purely soothing: an atmospheric thrum, its gradual increase in volume coinciding with the subtly wailing harmony of the hurdy-gurdy. Fans of van Eeckhout’s day job will be aware that the agonised shriek isn’t the only weapon in his arsenal, and here his easy yet mournful inflections add further poignancy to a lament which grows more hypnotic as even less seems to happen.
The brief introduction of rhythmic tub-thumping at the midway point brings a level of fire whilst simultaneously retaining the gentle feel of a deer springing through hard ground, the tension building while bizarrely massaging the temples. As drums re-enter the fray the listener becomes aware of having been lost in a reverie: constantly juxtaposed elements of light and dark polarising the equilibrium of the senses, the whispering laments of the sensual atmospheres whistling through a forest and bewitching the mind, with van Eeckhout’s gently howled intonations continuing to both trouble and assuage the soul.
There are elements of Amenra’s genius here: the tremendously affecting last five minutes reminiscent of the suspense-filled lull in ‘A Mon Âme’ for example. Those who have witnessed the band live will also recognise a stripped-back version of the barely controllable tension as their sound builds toward its terrible crescendo. Much as with the indigenous warblings of Wardruna, there is no crescendo here, merely a wonderfully hypnotic, emotive coda which continues to build the protagonist’s pain alongside its irresistible relief.
It has often been said that the aforementioned Norwegians draw tears from audiences, so what this will do God alone knows. RASA is a half-hour embodiment of distress and salvation, delivered with the most moving, disarming beauty, stripping the listener’s soul bare and leaving them distraught whilst not entirely bereft of deliverance. Pure and staggeringly powerful, this is a compelling, wistful drama that must not be polluted by extraneous noise and should be upheld as a beacon of perfect expression.