Artist: Anaal Nathrakh
Label: Metal Blade Records
Violence, brutality, and a complete lack of compromise – just some of the terms that can be used to describe ANAAL NATHRAKH, a British band that have always strayed from the classic black metal sound and invented their own. Dealing lyrically with heavier subject matter than the often ridiculous black metal Satanism, the duo now release their latest furious creation, “Endarkenment,” a term opposite to the era of enlightenment, but a fitting descriptor of today’s time according to the band. The album will be released on October 2nd, 2020, through Metal Blade Records.
The record begins with the titular “Endarkenment,” signalling the theme of the album with a violent thunder of inhuman shrieking vocals that established Dave Hunt as one of the most versatile and brutal vocalists in extreme metal. The chorus is surprisingly vocally melodic and probably the catchiest ANAAL NATHRAKH has ever been. Hunt’s cleans are impressive and feel almost warm, while contrasted with unrelenting blast beats. “The Age of Starlight Ends” is one of the songs of the year. The mix of brutality with the cleans in the chorus is simply delightful and there’s a haunting background sound added to the song that ties it all together into a scary, violent piece. Towards the middle, the guitars take over from the drums for a bit and add a melodic intermezzo amidst the rage. The band has released a lyrical video of the song, a massive rarity for a band that almost never releases their lyrics publicly.
A pig’s head with two cocks stuck in its eye sockets – a not-so-subtle and definitely uncompromising way in which ANAAL NATHRAKH brings attention to the over-sexualized society we live in. The charming image is used as the uncensored album art and the matter is sung about in “Libidinous (A Pig with Cocks in Its Eyes).” The track is only a touch tamer in comparison to most others on the album, which of course still means that it’s a lot heavier than most other things in existence. Hunt switches between his vocal styles, creating a feeling of a dialogue at times, and the instrumentation actually slightly feels like classic heavy metal, but done in a unique ANAAL NATHRAKH way. The piece also supports my long-term theory that every great album needs a sex song, it just so happens this one views it in a more negative way than most.
The title “Feeding the Death Machine” will probably remind you of the dark times of World War II and the atrocities of the Wehrmacht, and you’d be absolutely right to think so. Written on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the song was apparently inspired by a prisoner who survived simply because she could play the cello, which amused a certain “craven, self-excusing bureaucrat,” and that is who the song focuses on as it unleashes its chaotic madness. “Create Art, Though the World May Perish” can’t help but remind me of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, which makes me wonder how the Irish author would react to extreme metal. I imagine he’d find it fascinating. The song has a rather dark feel to it, which is contrasted by the chorus that offers a bit of light or hope, contrasting the previous song, “Feeding the Death Machine,” that continues with a more linear approach throughout.
The album never stops being fluid and dynamic, yet every song offers a slightly different structure while keeping the main thread of brutality. While the latter half of the album is perhaps just a touch less impressive than the first, “Singularity” offers some of the most varied and desperate-sounding vocals on the album, which are joined by this eerie orchestration throughout parts of the song, as well as a feeling of doom. The last song of the record, “Requiem,” encapsulates the album nicely by combining most of the album’s previously used elements, from the various vocal techniques to furious blast beats and fast guitar riffs. It even includes in a tame 20 second or so period before it concludes with a more classic heavy metal feel. The album dynamically flows throughout and most of the time feels like a mass of invading noise, as opposed to a collection of instruments working together. That sounds like a bad thing, but it’s really not. It’s what makes ANAAL NATHRAKH unique’s sound so weirdly appealing and interesting.
“Endarkenment” is the band’s 11th album and it’ll likely be considered one of the best in their discography. It offers a unique perspective on social commentary that not so often seen in black metal, which it mixes superbly with the demolishing sound that will melt your face off (don’t fret though, in most cases it’s only figuratively). From the array of vocal styles, the clever lyricism, the many haunting feelings, and the aggressive wall of sound, this album could only have come from ANAAL NATHRAKH and how glad am I that it did.
Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars
- Thus, Always, to Tyrants
- The Age of Starlight Ends
- Libidinous (A Pig with Cocks in Its Eyes)
- Beyond Words
- Feeding the Death Machine
- Create Art, Though the World May Perish
- Punish Them