Anaal Nathrakh’s Vanitas: A Snapshot of a Band in Transition


Vocals, man. Pretty much the definition of metal record dealbreaker.

Doesn’t matter how righteously ripping the music is, if the vocals don’t work within metal’s unfortunately teensy array of acceptable vocal modes, said record will be rejected.

Vocalists live trapped on the devil’s horns of a dumb dilemma. On the one hand, the conservatism that poisons so much metal demands screamy, shouty, growly, and cookie-montstery stylistic vocal presets, no matter how rote, dull and ruinous to great metal (Think the growl-bellow stopping the new Enslaved from escaping the black tee ghetto). Go full melodic and you’re either a nutsless wimp or a non-troo sell-out. Exceptions prove the rule. Nowhere is this more crisis more crucial than on the Anaal Nathrakh’s new slab, Vanitas.

Is the music still like a ballpeen hammer to the prefrontal, a relentless cacophony roofie slipped in a black martini metallic martini? If it were a Roomba would it fuck itself, give birth to a hundred evil Roomas and destroy your house?

Duh—it’s Anaal Nathrakh for fuck’s sake.

Black grind-y, psycho-filth brain-evisceration is first nature for Anaal ‘s two noisemakers, vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (Earth name Dave Hunt, also maker of mouth din with Benediction and Mistress) and multi-instrumentalist Irrumator (aka Mick Kenney, of Aborym, Frost, and Mistress). In your face, hyper-violent state of the art, precision serrated cadences are what these gentlemen do.

“The Blood-Dimmed Tide” opens the ceremonies with sampled, creeped-out religious chants that explode into soaked-in-kerosene tremolo-picked guitars, cacophony percussion and V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’s patentable, multi-layered vocal self-abuse. The boys are back in town, but what are they going to do?

“Feeding Somos Humanos” borrows from EBM and notch filters a Fear Factory-ish head trauma track and then rips open said filter: the visceral slam-dunk is, well, super visceral.

Alas, “Make Glorious The Embrace of Saturn” is rote Anaal: crash, bam, thank you ma’am and can you get us some tea, Mick?

Worse are songs trending towards the same key and mid-tempo. And then there’s the vocal thing.

Except every so often, V.I.T.R.I.O.L. stops with the standard issue shriek and proves that all it takes to make an okay Anaal record fucking great is to sing (imagine!). On “In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas,” “A Metaphor for the Dead,”and the riff-tastic “To Spite the Face,” V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’s clean-ish are a controlled ragged tenor suffused depression, rage and lunatic triumph. I’ve no idea what  V.I.T.R.I.O.L. is on about, but I’ll bet it’s really dark and shit.

What matters is that his concept of clean singing is unlike any other person alive on the globe, whereas one cookie monster is pretty indistinguishable from another (which is the goal of conservatism, of course — to create one, big, indistinguishable blur of whatever).

But I digress. Vanitas isn’t a CD so much as a snapshot of a band in transition from by-the-book metal shriek style to something unique, artful and true to their cacophonous vision.

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