It is hard to believe it has been nearly twenty years since Birmingham’s Anaal Nathrakh crawled into the daylight and booted the scene in the ass with their debut The Codex Necro, a twisted, uncompromising howl of blackened death that has been hard to rival since, by them or anyone else.
At the time the band was shrouded in mystery and claiming even that there would be no live tours, such was their disdain for the outside world beyond the music they made. Thankfully following an almost accidental chain of events that prediction never happened and here we are some two decades later with the band releasing their eleventh studio album Endarkenment.
Over the years Anaal Nathrakh have moved away from their utterly uncompromising debut, have added elements of industrial and even melodic vocals to increase the layers of sonic depravity, realising that moments of clarity and clean vocals can’t weaken the sheer battering that they inflict on the listener.
Endarkenment, on the surface, feels almost bright and commercially accessible, as the title track tears into the consciousness with the almost power metal style chorus and the bright humming production. I am of course talking in terms of relativism when it comes to Anaal Nathrakh as the complete savage chaos of Thus, Aways, To Tyrants proves by exploding, like something from Strapping Young Lad’s City on a diet of S&M porno and crack.
The Age Of Starlight Ends is simply monstrous. The sheer anger and venom directed by the maelstrom of the churning blast beats, matched with furious riffing and the snarled lyrics shows that their ability to wrench the most extreme sounds from their instruments has not been dented one bit by time. Even the towering chorus has layers of screams buried underneath, adding an extra layer of anxiety and paranoia.
Libidinous (A Pig With Cocks In Its Eyes) showcases the range that vocalist Dave Hunt has at his disposal, featuring Halford/King Diamond like screams, bull roars that would rival Dani Filth and a guttural mid range that would be the envy of many a death metal singer.
like something from Strapping Young Lad’s City on a diet of S&M porno and crack…
One thing that sometimes gets overlooked when talking about Anaal Nathrakh is the depth and purpose that they apply to their craft.
It’s no co-incidence that they created the cover image for the album off the concept of ‘libidinous’. This is an album about the sordid state of humanity in 2020, livestock blinded by a lack of dignity, feasting and festering in excess. Even the album title is a call back to a quote from one of the shitlarks currently enthroned in the UK Government, Michael Gove, who once claimed people were ‘sick of experts’, helping to usher in further the age of the Wikipedia school of knowledge and the presenting of opinion as fact.
From Endarkenment through to the unhinged Requiem they call back to familiar inspiration in Neitszche’s philosophical musings following the realisation of the death of God and its implications for society, and this is a theme that runs throughout the album’s lyrical tone.
Singularity, for example dissects the notion of culture and cultures consuming themselves, a concept as old as the Roman Empire and beyond, all whilst set to frantic screams and unrelenting violent music. And yet among the blast beats and screams, the guitars break into moments that hum brightly and cleanly with as much vibrancy as orchestral black metal acts like Dimmu Borgir, or even Abigail Williams.
Written and produced by multi-instrumentalist Mick Kenny, the music was recorded in his Southern California studio and the vocals recorded in Birmingham England, but the geographical disconnect has little impact on the seamless synergy of the pair’s hateful vision. It is easy to dismiss the album’s complexity given the sheer, unrelenting howl, the band create, but from the composition, the lyrics, the artwork, the production, everything this band do is carefully considered and analysed to deliver a powerful statement that stands as a testament to the enduring legacy they’ve carved out.
I mused at the beginning of the review that Endarkenment seemed, comparatively, commercially accessible, and in some parts to me it does, but that throwaway statement does little to change the fact that this is an Anaal Nathrakh album and what they do, and do very well, is make some of the nastiest, hardest, extreme music going. That was the case with their debut nearly twenty years ago and the advancing years have not dulled the fire in 2020. This is a more than worthy addition to their already jaw dropping back catalogue.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden