27 October 2014
by Rob McAuslan
How, if you’re Anaal Nathrakh, do you develop your sound even further into the realms of the ridiculously extreme? It’d be fair to say that in their pretty rarefied stratum, Nathrakh are already top dog – black-grind-industrial-death metal isn’t the largest of fields to be playing in, after all – but not content with this status, these Midlands misanthropes attempt to push harder and harder with each release.
This time around, the electronics are handled in conjunction with the charmingly-named Gore Tech, a breakcore artist and DJ whose own records combine dubstep, ragga, techno and drum & bass influences in a curiously-familiar nihilistic assault. It proves a most apt pairing. Gore Tech’s input brings an uncomfortable edge, one that screams of grimy free parties, the sort where you end up banging ket and speed and bad acid in a disused Bedfordshire library with an assortment of dead-eyed, burned-out 90s ravers, traveller punks and displaced metalheads.
This only enhances the ‘all is fucked’ dystopic atmosphere that Mick Kenney and Dave Hunt have always belched out – there’s no chillout room full of pillows and nice cups of tea here, just that eternally-grey, awful light on the horizon that means a long trip home through the modern hell of suburbia, probably on your own with a week-ruining bastard of a comedown lurking.
This doesn’t change the sound of Desideratum massively from their last few efforts, though. Vanitas and Passion had about as much in the way of effected vocals, choppy stutter-edits and sub-bass antics, and in any case, the electronics have been a feature to some degree or other even since the very start. If anything, it feels like a bit of a holding pattern – going back to my original question, how do you develop from a position that Nathrakh had gotten to ten years ago already? In some areas, their music is even a little more accessible than before; Mick’s guitar playing, whilst still ferociously heavy and as liberally laced with blurring tremelo-picked melodic work as ever, is displaying a little influence from other, more catchy realms of metal. Would you expect Anaal Nathrakh to sound like they’re about to explode into a chugging breakdown a la Bring Me The Horizon? Me neither, but it’s on here if you listen for it…and it works.
Give yourself a minute to take that in, if you like.
All of that said, it still doesn’t alter things too far from what is “the norm” for Nathrakh; you still get Hunt’s wild operatics, it all sounds like it’s incandescent with fury, blasting and shredding and grinding. On balance, it could be said that this the best, most cohesive work they’ve put out since In The Constellation Of The Black Widow – it refines everything they’ve done since then into an all-encompassing rage, wherein the parts that could have previously been seen as slightly peripheral take increased responsibility for smashing your optimism into tiny, weepy pieces. It’s just that Desideratum (‘that which is desired’, dead language fans) just falls a little short of properly advancing Anaal Nathrakh past their self-defined limits.
Sounds Like: An ever-more mechanised version of Hell. No, not the band – Satan’s gaff.
Standout Tracks: The Joystream, Unleash, A Firm Foundation Of Unyielding Despair