Yay...since Anaal Nathrakh was announced today for 70K (and even though I'm not going) - I was inspired to re-read up on them and plan to listen to their latest album Vanitas in a bit. I came across this interesting review of the album which also includes some background info on the band. I love these comments in particular: Anaal Nathrakh's albums are labyrinths of hyperactivity and idiosyncrasy, each part veering and sprinting into an unexpected next direction. Hunt, who's currently completing a Master's Degree in Philosophy, builds worlds of literary references and poetic citations, multi-tracking them over Kenney's one-man audio horror show. It's strange, fearless music-- exactly the sort of stuff that too much additional input might temper by limiting the unbound eccentricity.
Anaal Nathrakh had been a band for years and released several albums by the time they finally climbed onto a stage in 2005. In a veil of naivety, the British duo gave itself a Conlon Nancarrow complex, assuming that no drummer could adequately perform their pre-programmed overload of black metal, grindcore and obliterative noise in real time. So rather than stand on stage with a drum machine, vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L., or Dave Hunt, and multi-instrumental mastermind Irrumator, or Mick Kenney, sequestered themselves with studio time. They created hyperbolically convulsive and complicated records that didn't heed the need to make sense onstage; instead, they twisted elements of extreme music together until they'd created a horrifying mongrel that sounded like little else. Their best albums, such as 2004's Domine Non Es Dignus and 2009's brilliant In the Constellation of the Black Widow, transgress a dozen forms of heavy at a brutal, unrepentant clip.
Anaal Nathrakh eventually started playing live, refuting their own hypothesis by recruiting a quite-capable rhythm section that now joins the band for shows but not on albums; rare one-offs morphed into the kind of short treks that, later this month, will send the pair to Canada for the first time. Still, the effect of that early decision-- to limit the membership to two and to thrive or perish based only on how immoderate the records could be-- remains: Anaal Nathrakh's albums are labyrinths of hyperactivity and idiosyncrasy, each part veering and sprinting into an unexpected next direction. Hunt, who's currently completing a Master's Degree in Philosophy, builds worlds of literary references and poetic citations, multi-tracking them over Kenney's one-man audio horror show. It's strange, fearless music-- exactly the sort of stuff that too much additional input might temper by limiting the unbound eccentricity.
The band's latest album, Vanitas, is neither its best nor its most frenzied, but it's still incredibly aggressive. The energy and urgency are as high as ever; during these 38 minutes, there's rarely a chance for rest or, more impressive, to predict what's coming. But perhaps for the first time, the previous decade's output does presage Vanitas, meaning that Hunt and Kenney haven't found a new way to ratchet the intensity higher, or to make their shrieking nightmares that much more frightening. Sure, "Feeding the Beast" incorporates a classic industrial breakdown in its first half, while "Todos Somos Humanos" builds toward its seismic rumble through glitches, sampler manipulation and a moment of stoner throb. And this might be the most conspicuously hook-driven Anaal Nathrakh album to date, too: A melody fit for hair metal emerges from the unintelligible screams and death metal snap of "Forging Towards the Sunset", crisscrossing layers of serrated vocals and clean-singing harmonies suggesting metalcore as swallowed by the abyss. During "In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas", Kenney's stacks of pummel and misdirection generally strangle Hunt, who spends the bulk of the song screaming like he's wheezing. A hook crests above the mess, Hunt belting his credo like a true Bruce Dickinson apostle. Previously for Anaal Nathrakh, those intense tangents and sudden switches sounded like revelations; on Vanitas, they simply sound like Anaal Nathrakh, a band that has been around long enough to turn its tricks into tropes.
That's not meant to be dismissive or to suggest somehow that Anaal Nathrakh have gotten soft. Even if it feels familiar, Vanitas is a thrill ride of horrors, still unencumbered by restraint or regard for how these songs might work outside of the studio. "We want a sensation or feeling rather than things you can figure out," Hunt told Invisible Oranges last year, explaining Anaal Nathrakh's approach. Indeed, innovations aside, Vanitas remains incredibly challenging and evocative: In less than three minutes, for instance, "Make Glorious the Embrace of Saturn" sweeps from D-beat to black metal and back again, a transition that's most interesting when those layers clash against one another. As the title might suggest, "You Can't Save Me, So Stop Fucking Trying" is relentlessly mean, the title serving both as a mantra for malevolence and a swivel for the song's switches between old-school thrash, Lightning Bolt-like weirdness and death metal chug. If that sounds a tad impossible, you probably haven't heard Anaal Nathrakh yet. As a stylistic culmination of sorts, Vanitas is a fine place to start.
Wacken 2009 & 2010, Hole in the Sky (Bergen) 2011, 70,000 Tons of Metal 2011 & 2012, Progressive Nation at Sea 2014. 2015: Rock Legends Cruise Feb 19-23