ANAAL NATHRAKH: THE TWO HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE
“Uncompromising” is usually used for black metal when applied to lanky, corpsepaint-addled misanthropes biting Transylvanian Hunger for the umpteen thousandth time, eschewing production value or playing ability for the purpose of “rawness.” This is a grave irony, in that amidst black metal holding individuality as one of its defining features, the vast majority of its lesser bands (and, unfortunately, the ones people usually associate with the genre) are essentially copies of its forefathers, and dismiss those nudging the genre’s boundaries outward as sellouts and/or traitors. Anaal Nathrakh have made some of the most uncompromising black metal you’ll ever hear (you know how heavy they are? They used to share a live rhythm section with Napalm fucking Death), both out-necro-ing their moody basement counterparts and blasting the faces off of metal’s heavyweights (let alone black metal’s) all without keyboards or corpsepaint. And after the unfortunate misstep of 2007’s Hell is Empty and the Devils are Here, Anaal Nathtrakh’s latest is a return to bestial form, full of impossibly fast blast beats, black/death-grind hybrid riffs, and ridiculously tortured vocals. Though not the band’s best, In the Constellation of the Black Widow is a stern reminder of why Anaal Nathrakh are often mentioned in the same breath as today’s most notable black metallers.
Perhaps Anaal Nathrakh will never make an album as airtight as Eschanton or as blisteringly, almost uncomfortably heavy as The Codex Necro again, but what they’re making in the meantime is top fucking notch. Hell is Empty… found the band dabbling in slower tempos and midrange barking, a seemingly saddening development for a band once as domineeringly savage as them. But the opening track, after about a minute or so of mood-building, finds them back to their obliterating ways, emerging with their trademark wall of blackened grind riffs, relentless programmed drums, and V.I.T.R.O.L.’s angry-victim-of-demon-rape vocals. The album bobs and weaves from there, occasionally coming up for air, but mostly leaving you in the shit, illustrating how Anaal Nathrakh are one of the best bands out there when it comes to evoking horror and terror.
While they still employ clean vocals, I’ve always found them to be much more in the vein of Emperor than later Cryptopsy, adding an epic quality to their apocalyptic fervor. And make no mistake, they still sound like the house band for the Endtimes, frightfully angry and misanthropic, dead serious about what they do. They only falter during their slower parts, which have always been hit-or-miss for them. But they usually redeem themselves (sometimes mid-song: “The Unbearable Filth of the Soul” is built around an unexceptional chunky riff, but lifts off into blistering black metal about halfway through), with the seemingly most boring riffs becoming more tolerable upon return. Even a track like “Satanarchist” reveals itself as a straight-up black metal exercise– with all the band‘s most elegant riffs packed into 4 ½ minutes– as opposed to running out of steam toward the end of the album. Of course, “Satanarchist” is followed by “Blood Eagles Carved on the Backs of Innocents”, a screamy blastfest if there ever was one.
For those of you that doubt black metal’s heaviness and/or consider it a bunch of gangly nerds who lack the chops and ferocity to play death metal, listen to Anaal Nathrakh. A lot. And though it’s not their best, In the Constellation of the Black Widow is the heaviest black metal record you’ll hear this year, and maybe not a bad place to start for the uninitiated. When the end is nigh, if you’ve been listening to Anaal Nathrakh, it’ll sound familiar.
(4 out of 5 horns)