15 October 2012
by Tom Dare
With a (completely deserved) reputation for being one of the planet’s most scathing and nihilistic bands, grinding black metallers Anaal Nathrakh have subtly shifted moods for album number seven. While not standing still is always to be praised, the resulting album Vanitas has ended up sounding slightly at odds with itself.
Parts of Vanitas retain that core Anaal Nathrakh quality: making you feel like the world is a horrible, unbearable and awful place, and that we’re all fucked and getting ever more so. The vitriolic proclamation of ‘Forging Towards The Sunset‘ and the twelve-bore blast of ‘Make Glorious The Face Of Saturn‘ even threaten to (well, almost) invoke the darkest, nastiest bits of last, most putrid album Passion. And when they’re doing this, Nathrakh are at or near their acerbic best.
There are, on the other hand, tracks that smack a little more of (are you even allowed to use this word about Anaal Nathrakh?) fun. The opening punctuations of ‘The Blood-Dimmed Tide‘ and the almost toe-tapping (in a blasting, nasty sort of way) second half of ‘Todos Somos Humanos‘ are, spiritually, more like the leering fun of Autopsy or Obituary than grim, Nietzschean terror. The splendidly-titled ‘You Can’t Save Me, So Stop Fucking Trying‘ goes even further and is out-and-out smile-inducing.
All of these songs are also very good. The problem is, the two feels distract from each other. The moods appear to be in conflict, and it makes Vanitas a record that provokes less of a response than it might if it were either one or the other. The hairs on the back of your neck don’t rise quite as quickly from someone screaming at you that we’re all insignificant against the weight of the horror of existence if they keep turning their head to the side and winking at you. It’s a musical breach of the fourth wall. Similarly, you can’t fully let go and have fun to brutal bounce-inducing tunes if the tracks before and after make you feel that life is a pointless struggle you are certain to lose sooner or later that consists of little more than pain and grief.
Vanitas isn’t Mick and Dave losing their touch. The riffs are still furious, the screaming is still absolutely gut-wrenching and the vocal hooks are almost as big as In The Constellation Of The Black Widow material. But, while arguably one of their more consistently strong, well-constructed albums, it oddly doesn’t effect you quite as powerfully as it could. It’s an entertaining forty minutes, but the dichotomy means it ultimately slides past with less of a lasting effect than Anaal Nathrakh achieve at their best.
Sounds Like: The unbearable filth of the soul… with the odd wink to the audience.
Standout Tracks: Forging Towards The Sunset, Feeding The Beast, Of Fire And Fucking Pigs.