Last time I posted, I talked about the Lady Gaga album. Now let’s go for something WAY ON THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM. Anaal Nathrakh are an absolutely terrifying force, and I generally wouldn’t recommend them to anybody but seasoned fans of extreme metal with a taste for absolute chaos on a biblical level. Since that describes me perfectly, Anaal Nathrakh are naturally one of my absolute favorite bands. Not that I wouldn’t blast this in the car with friends who hate this type of music, mind you. These guys are almost unmatched by anyone else in metal in terms of their sheer in-your-face kitchen sink approach to heavy music, and they take it even further on their new LP The Whole of the Law. The title is taken from a famous quote from Aleister Crowley, an apt pick for a band responsible for some of the most depraved yet beautifully highfalutin’ music the genre has to offer.
Taking a little bit from black metal, grindcore, crust-punk, and industrial music while sprinkling in elements of symphonic music, and even electronica, their M.O. is general ugliness on an epic scale. And epic is a factor that distinguishes Anaal Nathrakh from other bands that operate at a similar intensity level. Listening to this record, you get a real rollercoaster-esque feeling as these songs juxtapose dissonant blasts of distorted screams, angular riffs and soaring symphonia, all carried out at extremely fast tempos. The oft-incomprehensible industrial blackened crust-grind (see how hard it can get to describe their sound sometimes?) they live in is often broken out of with these high flying almost power metal sounding choruses with operatic, yet still distorted, cleans. The contrast between these almost symphonic sections and the disgusting grime of the rest is akin to revving up your RPMs and then shifting into a higher gear. These guys are experts in the art of musical momentum. To invoke the poetry of Homer Simpson, you simply strap yourself in and feel the Gs!
While I absolutely love this style they play in, a few problems reveal themselves when listening to this record as a whole. First off, on a technical note, the dynamic range on this is almost painfully squashed. It could be argued that it fits the unrelenting style of the music, but the ridiculous amount of buss-compression on this really rounds off some of the edges in my opinion, as the huge drops on this never seem to hit as hard as they could. There are even audible dips in volume when the whole band kicks in at points. This leads into another issue that honestly may not be an issue for some, and that’s that the record is not particularly diverse. In almost every song you can expect a blast beat verse, some sort of choir or orchestral bit floating overtop the riffs, and an epic clean sung chorus. Not necessarily a problem, just something to point out.
Another thing to point out is that if you want my analysis of the lyrics, well, sorry. The vocals here are almost completely comprehensible, and even the ones that are a bit clearer are distorted beyond belief. In addition I don’t believe the band has published the lyrics either, so whatever you may read on lyrics sights are total shots in the dark. I sort of imagine that this is probably the biggest turn off for the casual listener, but for the record I love the vocals on this. Similar to Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation, another one of my favorite modern metal bands, Anaal Nathrakh realize the value in having a diverse array of harsh vocal styles. From particularly inhuman to uncomfortably anguished, high timbered and guttural, to the full-throated power cleans used on the choruses, the vocals are key to the band’s notable dynamism.
Perhaps Anaal Nathrakh’s greatest strength overall is that despite the auditory carnage they wreak, and beyond all the oppressive walls of sound and fury, there is a strong melodic core if you can train your ears to pick it up. I know this is NOT for everybody, but if you can withstand it, this record is quite a ride. The album closer “Of Horror, and the Black Shawls”, ends everything on one of these melodic sections, slowing the record down for the first and only time, and building on a mournful dirge that finally gives way to a single echo-laden guitar that slowly fades out. In almost any other context, this sort of gloomy sendoff would bring the mood down to something more sombre, but here, juxtaposed against the brutality of the preceding fifty-three minutes, it’s more of a bittersweet reprieve.
Depravity Favours the Bold
Of Horror, and the Black Shawls
We Will Fucking Kill You
Least Favorite Tracks:
In Flagrante Delicto