translation by Pascale Nunlist
written by Marie Alice Riley
How to convince the very Catholic Fribourg, the Bishops palace and a high school deeply connected to its religion to welcome a Belgian metal group’s concert? I know that Sylvain Maradan, who at the time was organizing one of his las events on behalf of the Nouveau Monde, had to struggle, get on the good side, convince and more specifically had to have the songs’ lyrics read. However with Stéphanie Bender’s help ,as well as the help of all the saints, they managed to pull off the unimaginable and it is not the few flyers, or prayers proclaimed out loud in front of the entrance by a handful of faithful followers that would spoil the party. So Amenra has been programmed for two dates, the more « traditional » of the two takes place within the walls of the Nouveau Monde and then there’s is the second one of particular interest to us, which took place last May 23rd in the Church of the Collège Saint-Michel ( high-school) in Fribourg.
You will quickly understand whilst reading this article that I am far from what my first name may suggest (and no I’m not talking about my virginity). I have no particular fondness either for Catholicism or any other religion. Nonetheless I respect its culture and history and I can well imagine that when organizing such a concert one had better avoid declarations of love for Satan in any way. Even so I must admit I would have had a good laugh at seeing Hey Satan from Lausanne as the first act.
We enter the church and I congratulate myself on not catching fire. The numerous sins that I have accumulated since my last forced confession at about the age of ten would have made for an excellent combustible. The place is magnificent. The Church erected in late Gothic style was built between 1606 and 1613. Transformed in the XVIII th century, it changes into a real rococo jewel. Fittingly enough, on the ceiling mural paintings representing the struggle between good and evil rapidly got the better of my neck. A very special ambience reigns here. The audience is mixed. There are the curious spectators, the ardent supporters of the Nouveau Monde but mostly lots of metal fans. It needs to be said that of all the different onlookers they are the ones I prefer. I have witnessed neither outburst nor the slightest problem in the metal milieu. And they are beautiful these metal heads who finish their beers before entering and silently advancing along the aisles. No outbursts of laughter, no word raised, there is just the shuffle of steps and the rubbing of leather jackets to accompany the sound of a few heels tapping on the church floor. It’s a bit tense however given the solemnity of the place so I intone a “ closer to you my God” into the ear of my neighbors to lighten the atmosphere. This works pretty well. Don‘t take it badly, we are not mocking anyone. It’s owing to the nerves like unstoppable giggles at a funeral until we come across an old aunt’s livid glare.
No old aunt here tonight but a very muscular security service pacing up and down the church aisles. The few undercover infiltrated faithful can exhale as there will be no pogo in the prolongation of the nef. The benches are full. It’s 8:30 pm and the sunlight still streams though the stained glass when Louis Jucker advances, a bit like a dying groom emitting little screams and high pitched groans. The echo of the church functions as a sound box. The place fits him like a glove. Silence falls rapidly and mass begins. After the concert, after having thanked all the organizers and the audience, he says what everyone was thinking: “Its strong`”. After a fifteen minute break it is now night. Seated in the choir in a circle the musicians of Amenra now take possession of the dwelling. The illuminated apse behind them adds a dramatic dimension to the scene. I had no idea what to expect going to this concert. But I have to admit that what I had imagined was pretty far from what I experienced. Deep down I would have loved it if the representatives of the Bishopric would have been in the front row to attend our mass. No blasphemous word, no cross turned upside down and not even the shadow of a sacrificed chic but the imprint and musical characteristics of metal assembled in a powerful acoustic set, soft but straight out of darkness. And darkness is Amenra’s business. A great deal of their songs speaks of death, of grief and what happens after. At the end of it all they are certainly more religious that most of the people who occasionally go to sing mass on Sundays (I’m not talking about those who go to Hauterive and sing in Latin, they are the real deal). Even their name Amenra is derived from the contraction of the Hebrew declamation Amen and Ra, the Egyptian god and creator of the universes’ name. It’s a good indication that we aren’t dealing with fervent Catholics here but with real believers in the largest sense of the term. They believe in something but what exactly? There is even « the Church of Ra » which exists around them.
What really surprised me is finding an atmosphere favorable to introspection in this church at prayer time surrounded by all the saints and all the catholic symbols enmeshed with the best metal can offer ; tense chords, this « diabolus in musica » displeasing because it’s just put there, unresolved, just on the borders of our ears. It would have frightened the Church enough to have been forbidden from Baroque music. However certain compositors were able to use it with ingenuity. Richard Wagner for example is considered by some as the founding father of metal. I’ll let you be the judge. One thing is for sure, pas de quarte augmentée (I know it’s not as nice as Diabolus in Musica), no Black Sabbath. And no Black Sabbath, no metal. Preparing this article I came across the documentary of an anthropologist who is a fan of metal in which Tony Lommi explains how they played the devils music in spite of themselves.
Listen to Wagner’s « Götterdämmerung » , the Gods’ twilight, their entry into Walhalla, the Viking paradise after one last battle with men.
Be that as it may, after one hour of bewitchment in a state of forced contemplation, as I could not see the group at all from my bench, the concert ends as gently as it started. Each musician leaves. We applaud, both relieved because mass on these benches hurts and involves merit, and happy. My friend Julie tells me, “Voila, we can now say that we were there”.
If you are interested you will find a very good article taken from BBC News on the phenomena I explain above: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4952646.stm
Salmon and pesto ravioli in a fennel and watercress broth.
Colin the singer responded to my demand for an interview the day after the concert as he hadn’t seen it sooner. Luckily I was able to speak to Mathieu the guitarist and asked him what he wanted me to cook for the blog. He answered, “spaghetti with salmon in pesto and parmesan“. Great. But I did pasta and pesto for Hey Satan and that bothered me a bit. So I invented a recipe of which I am rather proud
For this recipe you will need :
-A beautiful salmon filet
-300 grams of flour
-3 spring onions
-5 fennel bulbs
– a bit of butter
-two cloves of garlic
-80grams of basil
-120 grams of pine nuts
-100 grams of parmesan
– olive oil
– some watercress
I started by preparing my fennel broth. I sweat the spring onions, some beautiful carrots and 5 fennel bulbs chopped into pieces in butter and I wet it all with water. I add salt and pepper and I let it come to a boil before reducing the temperature.
For the ravioli dough
I always use the same recipe, 1 egg= 110 grams of flour. You can make a well and mux by hand until the flour has absorbed all the liquid and then you can knead it until it’s smooth. Then in order to obtain a nice thine pasta you pass it through the rolling mill. For this recipe I added pink pepper to the dough.
For the pesto I chopped basil with the garlic and pine nuts and then use the pestle and mortar and add olive oil and parmesan.
I cut my salmon filet into nice cubes that I sear rapidly on each side in a pan in a bit of olive oil in order to obtain a crust but be careful not to cook them if not the salmon will be overcooked in the ravioli.
I arrange a bit of pesto on the dough, add a cube of salmon and close it sealing with an egg white. Be careful not to leave any air in the raviolis which may cause them to explode when cooking.
To serve I cook the raviolis in salted boiling water until the rise to the surface and then arrange them in the broth and decorate with some watercress.
I am really pleased with this dish. The broth was delicious and quite subtle, and when you cut the ravioli the pesto is diffused and gives the dish its touch. Go for it!
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