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Anaal Nathrakh's new sound comes into its own with this new album, the guitar sound is rich and the playing is top-notch while the more melodic parts, choruses and catchy parts seen in Eschaton are better engineered and shine much brighter. There are some great heavy rhythimic riffing headbanging parts and solos which really grab you. It's all sustained by quick, engaging guitar work in the background in synergy with the drum-machine for a constant speedy feel. It all generally hangs together well and all elements sit in good proportion to each other. While I remain a little nostalgic for the less melodic, more unforgiving side of Anaal Nathrakh, none of that has really gone away, its just now in admixture with other sounds. Whether, given the song structures and all, I'm still undecided as to whether that's a good thing, though simply stated I listen to this more than some of their early work. It's more polished and still crushing in places but still lacks a little of the appeal of something like Pandemonic Hyperblast.
The latest album from Birmingham's Anaal Nathrakh sees them pretty much abandon the slight industrial experiments that had started to creep into 'Eschaton,' and it's a damn fine return to basics. Blessed with crystal clear production enunciating every bastard sound, this is an album that should in all fairness be scrutinised by health & safety before being allowed to played through anyone's headphones and bore right their skulls. It's fantastic music, to boot.
Unleashed over a relentless thirty-five minutes, this is death-influenced black metal in the violent style of Behemoth, with keyboards used to subtly enhance the atmosphere rather than go off on one into four-minute soliloquies. The instruments, all handled by Mick "Irrumator" Kenney, are most often called to merge into a thunderous wall of sound, but that doesn't free them of their responsibilities to let rip with some killer riffs, his guitars slay in this manner with all the brutal efficiency of a serial killer at his/her peak, with countless great riffs and just the right amount (by which I mean a huge amount) of reckless solos. The drums are of less interest, their duty primarily being to keep a steady power supply flowing to the amplifiers with kinetic energy from bass pedals, but without the drums this wouldn't be anywhere near as devastating, and the violence is a large part of its success. This is a far cry from the amateur channelling of youth angst in mindlessly cacophonous bands like Slipknot, and the band's sincerity is compelling.
By far the most distinctive and impressive instrument on display across all of these songs is V.I.T.R.I.O.L's voice (real name the slightly less impressive Dave Hunt, whose parents didn't even have the good humour to call him Mike), possessing the most varied range I've ever heard on a black metal album. Most songs see him double-tracked in tandem with himself performing in a contrasting register, and this moves from a pained black metal scream supported by clean, Viking metal style singing in the early songs through to more extreme squawks, deep guttural rumbles and aggressive yells later on. This huge degree of variation helps each song to stand distinct from the rest, something they otherwise would have lacked due to the repetitive wall of sound, and even the lesser-used clean singing style doesn't distract from or contradict the atmosphere, like the irritating, piercing whines of melodic death and metalcore bands that try out a similar contrast.
Anaal Nathrakh has always been about experimentation and perfection, often to a clinical extent, and even when confining itself to the core principles of black metal, it is able to offer one of its most technically perfect recordings. The only thing it lacks is some of the creativity and compassion that comes through in other black metal bands' more memorably evocative works, but as you will no doubt experience with some of Hollywood's horror films, the killer-with-a-heart can become tiresome after a while, leaving you with a more basic desire for cold, methodical carnage. I think I'm trying to suggest that this is something like that.
1. Solifugae (Intro)
2. Der hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen
3. Screaming of the Unborn
4. Virus Bomb
5. The Final Absolution
6. Shatter the Empyrean
7. Lama Sabachthani
8. Until the World Stops Turning
9. Genetic Noose
10. Sanction Extremis (Kill Them All)
11. Castigation and Betrayal
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Der Holle Rache Kocht In Meinem Herzen
3 Screaming Of The Unborn
4 Virus Bomb
5 Final Absolution
6 Shatter The Empyrean
7 Lama Sabachthani
8 Until The World Stops Turning
9 Genetic Noose
10 Sanction Extremis (Kill Them All)
11 Castigation And Betrayal