With the upcoming release of the new Anaal Nathrakh album, The whole of the law, on 28th October via Metal Blade, it seemed a good time to review their output since their beginning 17 years ago. From a studio only project to their first live shows and their transformation into a confident live machine, the duo formed of multi-instrumentalist Mick Kenney (also of Mistress and other solo project) and vocalist Dave Hunt has changed quite a lot while retaining a consistent identity despite the sonic evolution their music went through despite staying faithful to the Mayhem influence and the pulsing Napalm Death beat found on all of their release.
The kings of industrial black metal : Total Fucking Necro and The Codex Necro
When they first started to get the attention of online reviews website, the duo first had a sound close to the one of the first Norwegian Black metal releases. Saturated and full of buzzing sound, the aesthetic choice remained faithful to the roots of the genre while pushing the envelope in terms of extremity. Black metal was a coat the Englishmen liked to wear but behind the clothes there also was a fearless attitude reminiscent of Napalm Death. Anaal Nathrakh was a band determined to explore extremity without making any compromises.
The Emperor in the making : Domine Non Es Dignus and Eschaton
As they switched to Earache to Season of Mist, the duo decided to not let themselves be pigeonholed into a specific way of doing things and added some melodic vocals to their repertoire. However, nobody really expected them to include Ihsahn (Emperor) like wails into their compositions and even less to write very catch choruses which clash perfectly with the inhuman guttural vocals of the same singer. With these two albums, Anaal Nathrakh showed they more than just an internet phenomenon with better songwriting and a production to rival any teenager oriented release while still retaining an extreme edge.
Grindcore and Black metal made catchy : Hell is empty… and In the constellation…
With their previous two albums, Anaal Nathrakh‘s Grindcore influence had diminished for a more razor sharp Metal sound. After two albums of Emperor worship, the duo could revert back to their love for Grindcore while still retaining the excellent choruses and melodic vocals of their two previous albums. Far from slowing down, some killer breaks were now included in the music making the songs more palatable for a live situation where a unstoppable blur of noise can only impress crowds for so long. As they morphed into a more popular band without compromising their extremity, the song writing skills of Mick Kenney now expanded to include all of the elements of his other project such as the grandiose of Professor Fate and the fun of Exploder.
The turn towards Metalcore : Passion, Vanitas and Desideratum
When they first started as a mysterious studio project, it seemed completely improbable for Anaal Nathrakh to include mosh parts and more contemporary metal elements but surprisingly they did, and did it well. With Passion, the duo created a solid album bridging the gap between modern metal and extreme metal. Passion followed and provided some good songs but the formula now seemed less exciting and the band seemed to repeat themselves. The real disappointment however came in the form of Desideratum. Now employed by Motionless in White, a band of Metalcore Marylin Manson wannabe, to write songs for their album, Mick Kenney brought back this influences into his own band for a disastrous result best forgotten.
Thankfully, it seems that Anaal Nathrakh realized they had taken a wrong turn and are now returning to the extremity of their old days. It remains to be seen what surprises the new album will offer but despite a tragic turn for the worst, Anaal Nathrakh remains a solid song writing machine capable of crafting the catchiest and the most violent song possible.