British black metal duo Anaal Nathrakh have been possibly the most extreme metal band of the 21st century. Since the terrifyingly brutal début The Codex Necro was unleashed in 2001 they’ve been plying their trade of blackened grindcore with soaring cleans at a pace as unrelenting as their music, not only touring extensively, but with Desideratum they’ve produced their eighth album in just thirteen years. The new effort is a continuation of their extreme sound, and once again a grinding intensity is fused with an epic sense of melody in another great release.
All the hallmarks of the band’s sound are present once more from the lightning fast battery of the drum programming, the relentless grinding guitars from Mick Kenney to the diverse vocal style of Dave Hunt, all matched by their brilliant song writing. Instrumental opener Acheronta Movebimus gives a taster of what’s to come with heavy chugged riffs, soaring leads, battering drums and cold industrial electronics setting the atmosphere perfectly for first song proper Unleash. Blastbeats, grinding riffs and inhuman shrieks from Dave open it up and it’s brilliant, moving swiftly into epic melodic cleans. Not only does this album have the best vocal performance since 2009’s In the Constellation of the Black Widow, but the epic choruses and melodies are also the strongest since that album too. The combination of a barbarically heavy sound with powerful music and vocals is their trademark and it’s in full force here once again, but with more industrial overtones than the last few albums.Dave also outdoes himself, snarling, shrieking, screaming, shouting, growling and singing in his best performance since the aforementioned In the Constellation of the Black Widow.
When it comes to the songs, their great song writing is once again on show, with Unleash and The One Thing Needful having that exciting rush of powerful choruses and soaring melodies combined with the force of battering blasts and grinding guitars. Each song has great memorable riffs, and the grindier Monstrum in Animo has a sweeping solo amidst it’s devastating electronics to make up for the lack of cleans, Dave shrieking barbarously instead. A Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair is deliciously heavy, with unfathomably fast blasts and grinding bass giving a devastating low end counterpoint to the fast melodic riffs and snarls.
Sub Specie Aeterni (Of Maggots, and Humanity) is the most ferocious, (not that they’re ever anything but), from those electronic drums in the intro, through to the thick guitar chugs, Dave’s vocals make the track, his screams sound so intense and passionate it’s a wonder he didn’t throw up a lung. But moving forward into barking death growls and aggressive shouts he shows his diversity, and the way he shouts “Fuck your revelations!” in that slower grinding section just reeks of pure anger. The pick of the bunch however is Idol, from the moment the eerie spoken word intro kicks off into soaring riffs, blasts, noisy electronics and Dave’s ear shredding inhuman high pitched shrieks. The melodic chorus is perhaps the best they’ve ever done, Dave’s powerful cleans combined with the great melodies riffs and solos conjure images of Satan emerging from the ground in a pit of hellfire. The sweeping solo just adds to the energy and its one of the best tracks in the Anaal Nathrakh canon, a more appropriate term for their sound being artillery however.
The production is also the warmest they’ve ever had, which accentuates the melodic epic nature of the sound well, especially on The Joystream and Unleash, and the mix is great too; everything audible, balance and brutally destructive.
Overall it’a phenomenal album and easily surpasses the last two, being more of a complete package than Vanitas and Passion – it’s filled with great songs that are bound to end up on future setlists. It might not offer a great amount that’s new, but with the song writing as great as ever, a more exciting epic sound, more solos and an increase in electronics, it’s not just another Anaal Nathrakh album, and they’re as essential as they’ve ever been.
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