Along with Napalm Death, Anaal Nathrakh are the undisputed kings of extreme metal at home and on the wider global stage. No other band can claim such consistency as this English group, nor do many artists put out a new record every couple of years over the course of two decades. From 1999’s genre-defining, The Codex Necro, through to 2018’s A New Kind of Horror, the duo of Dave Hunt and Mick Kenney are as reliable as it gets and now present us with their eleventh full-length release. Can we expect more of the same or something new?
Fans of the last album will feel their eyes bulge after ten seconds of the opening title track. This is Anaal Nathrakh at their psychopathic best with layers of ear-piercing fry screams atop a cacophony of blast beats, double-bass kicks and rapid grind riffs. And, of course, they don’t disappoint with the triumphant power metal chorus that is now part of their trademark sound. It’s a formula that serves them well on ‘The Age of Starlight Ends’ and ‘Create Art, Though the World May Perish’, both of which should end up in their live set when they have permission to take this pandemonium onto the road. The unique feature of an Anaal Nathrakh scorcher is the way they layer the compositions with walls of noise and piles of distortion. This is the type of music that drenches the innocent bystander in blood while the maniacal killer sprays himself in an ecstasy of gushing fluids from the brain of his victim. Anaal Nathrakh are the artist that embrace the grotesque and give a voice to the euphoria that accompanies the most rabid domination fantasies of the demented mind. This is not gore metal; it’s too grown up for that. No, this is the outer body experience the serial killer experiences after ending another life.
Though the band started as a black metal act, the Norwegian influence is minimal these days. We hear the heroic tremolo riffs of Emperor on ‘Feeding the Death Machine’ and the band use the epic guitar melodies of the Viking metal toolkit on ‘Singularity’. But the bottom-end brutality of Meshuggah is never far away when they click into a syncopated groove, as on ‘Thus, Always, To Tyrants.’ Now this is extreme metal! This track thrives on a frenzy of chaotic death metal riffs and intense screams but never takes pride in being heavy for the sake of it. Instead, Mick Kenney embellishes the chorus with a classical horn section while Hunt fleshes out the remaining layers with low end growls.
The nearest contemporaries to Anaal Nathrakh are Cattle Decapitation. Both bands revel in depicting the worst aspects of humanity and celebrating all things perverted. Like Travis Ryan, Dave Hunt also has his own extreme metal falsetto that will leave you blinking in disbelief. His switch between this bizarre style and the power metal fury on ‘Libidinous (a Pig with Cocks in Its Eyes)’ is bewildering in its effortless alternation. It takes a few listens to digest but feels normal after three spins.
Though not deviating too far from the blackened death-grind of their last few records, Endarkenment is a strong piece of work. Fans of Mike Patton’s Fantomas and Strapping Young Lad’s classic City album will enjoy this as much as the black metal fanbase and Infant Annihilator crowd that pay homage to Anaal Nathrakh. It may be extreme to an absurd degree, but the harmonized guitar melodies, epic power metal choruses and eerie keyboard samples enhance the carnage rather than tame it. How is something as hostile as this so listenable?
Release Date: 02/10/2020
Record Label: Metal Blade
Standout tracks: Endarkenment; The Age of Starlight Ends; Create Art, Though the World May Perish
Suggested Further Listening: Emperor – Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise (2001), Infant Annihilator – The Elysian Grandeval Galèriarch (2016), Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas (2019)