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OKdex Necro: Anaal Nathrakh Manage to Keep Being One of Metal’s Fiercest on Desideratum

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Let’s talk about Vanitas. I’m on record as being a fan of Anaal Nathrakh. Have been since about 2005 or so. But Vanitas was the first record of theirs that didn’t hook me (while Hell is Empty and the Devils are All Here had the band spinning its wheels, at least they weren’t taking the bus). I felt a little like a Queen fan in the early ‘80s: Anaal Nathrakh used to wear their distaste of synthesizers like a badge of honor, and then there they were, weaving in industrial glitches and drum machines (well, a little more obviously mechanical than their usual drum programming). I wasn’t even looking for the band to get all Codex Necro over and over again: I really loved Eschanton and the underrated Passion. Vanitas didn’t sound like the band were softening up or compromising, but moving in a direction after which I didn’t particularly want to follow. So I tipped my cap to them and figured that was it.

And the first few tracks on their lastest, Desideratum, well… don’t necessarily make me regret my decision. Anaal Nathrakh aren’t a gateway band to anything by any means. They’re still almost-impossibly abrasive and brutal. But Desideratum’s start didn’t speak to me like, say, “Between Shit and Piss We Are Born.” But after the (very relatively) ho hum Nathrakh riff that opens “Unleash” or the surprisingly lame sample (and the band occasionally throw in some great samples) on “Monstrum in Animo,” things started to lock into place. The malfunctioning electronics in “The One Thing Needful” still don’t sound right, but they’re not as distracting as they were earlier on the record (or on Vanitas). Then comes “A Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair,” primo Anaal Nathrakh viciousness (and, oddly enough, it opens with some glitchery). “Idol” follows the same pattern, as does the apocalyptic scream-ranting of “The Joystream.” It’d be hard to believe that a band as deliberately unrelenting as Anaal Nathrakh could lose their shine altogether, and fortunately, a sizeable chunk of Desideratum illustrates that admirably.

Like “Castigation and Betrayal,” the closer on Hell is Empty…, Desideratum’s finale “Ito Mori” ratchets itself a little above everything that came before it. The black metal is faster and sharper, Dave Hunt manages to somehow scream even harder, and after about 3 ½ minutes, it just stops. While most bands go to ease you out of the album or provide you with their masterstroke, Anaal Nathrakh go to kick you in the taint one last time. I can’t say Desideratum is in the top tier of what the band have done so far. However, there’s enough on there to make me kick myself for ever thinking the band would stray too far from the profoundly angry place they’ve inhabited for fifteen years. Parts are different, but the same core of advanced misanthropy is there. I can only hope they don’t go too far down the industrial rabbit hole, but knowing them, they’d take what’s inside and skin it.

Anaal Nathrak’s Desideratum comes out Tuesday, October October 28 on Metal Blade. You can stream the track “The One Thing Needful” here and pre-order the album here.

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