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Black metal and the countries in which they come from have a unique relationship, different from other perceptions of regional scenes of music. For example, people expect Norwegian black metal to be the best or German black metal to be the most underground or American black metal to be the most gimmicky or any other mixed-and-matched combination thereof. English black metal doesn't seem to have any wide consensus of what kind of scene it is. Personally, I'd always looked at England as a poor spot for black metal. I mean you'd think the home country of the genre's first historical mention would have a thriving scene. Before you think, “Hang on there, Alex! You're forgetting Venom, that very “first historical mention” you referred to not moments ago! Those evil chaps provided great inspiration for many of the black metal we enjoy today! How would we have things like grimtastic minimalism or devilish lyrics and themes or, most importantly, what the fuck would the genre be called?” I'd always thought of Venom's importance to be minimal at best, since everything Venom did, Bathory did also and did it better. Bathory also actually made black metal instead of recording an album of sloppy, poorly produced speed metal and naming the album Black Metal. Don't get me wrong, I rather enjoy Venom's early offerings, but if they can pass off as black metal then so can Motorhead. The next major English band you may mention as a counterexample might be Cradle of Filth, and if it is then at this point I would like to recommend you stop reading my review, unplugging your computer from its socket, putting your wet fingers in its place because you're a twat. Seriously, our lovely little lad Daniel Lloyd Davey has been slowly distilling the scene and steadily planting the corporate seeds of commercialism since being a young vampire obsessed 18-year old black metal scene kid with a knack for macabre poetry forming the awkward group of nocturnal transvestites and taking the name Dani Filth. Year after year, Danny and the Filthcradles would drop more and more musical sincerity, receive more and more criticism from the scene they pride themselves from being from, and not having to care for a moment as they continue to draw in the big bucks and continue feeding the hungry mallgoth masses all the while merrily riding into glorious mainstream success like a gilded chariot into the the fabled land of chocolate. What's worse is this would be England's only commonly known black metal band for seven years and how shameful it must have been (especially since they weren't even black metal from 1994 and onward). Anyway, I just realized I'm almost five hundred words into this review and should probably get on with discussing this 'Anal Nutcrack' or whoever (sorry, I had to).
The relevance of that pessimistic pseudo-intellectual wall of text is to paint you a picture of how extremely welcome a band like Anaal Nathrakh is. This demo shows everyone the naked emperor that our beloved black metal has become and reminds us what pure fucking black metal is really about. The band doesn't appear to have any major back-story. Mick Kenney (who goes by the pseudonym “Irrumator” playing the instruments) and Dave Hunt (who goes by V.I.T.R.I.O.L. handling the vocal duties) just seemed to be two guys with a passion for heavy metal. I believe MP3.com's summary of the band said it best when they said they were created “with the sole purpose of providing the soundtrack to Armageddon...” Here you will find no radical political commentaries, no cliché stereotypical costumes and make-up, and no silly “black metal ist krieg” philosophies (or whatever it is the kvlt black metallists like to believe in these days), just a duo and their music.
The first track, the eponymous Anaal Nathrakh, one of the band's best songs to date, opens with a sample of Merlin reciting the band's namesake incantation before breaking out into a loud reverberating blast beat over a very cold and sinister sounding array of fast riffs. The next thing you should notice is its fuzzy yet perfectly fitting and brilliant production. It has the raw minimalistic production quality of the old Norsk bands and still has this very wide open and loud feel as opposed to just fuzzy for the sake of true black metal (à la Darkthrone). It's as if you're outside, gasping in maddening horror as hellfire rains upon the earth, decimating all human existence. This song works pretty well as an opener because it totally shows what the whole EP is all about. The song features a sweet leading riff and hell-shriek vocals to set the stage for this evil scene as demons and devils arise, eventually leading up to a melancholy quiet part acting as the calm before the storm, and climaxes with a massive ending featuring a horrific lead as the final blood is spilt.
Next up is Necrodeath, which provides more of the same greatness. It builds up rather quickly, starting with a simple beat alongside a menacing riff which soon segues into a massive evil lead riff before the blasting begins. The shrieks, the horror, the bloodshed, they're all there just like in the song before it. This song can get away with being a very similar-sounding song because they've really got a rather astoundingly nasty set of fresh riffs here.
Ice Blasting Wind Storms slows down for a bit to let you wallow in the misery of the desolate world you are now left to survive alone on. It starts with a slow doom-paced drum beat moving into a sludgy bass line before tossing the guitar into the mix to truly give you a song to wander to. Worry not, the blasting will be there shortly after. This here, I must admit, is the weak track of the four. The intro is wicked sick for sure, but everything after sounds somewhat dull after two incredible songs like Anaal Nathrakh and Necrodeath. The good thing is, though, is there's nothing directly unpleasant about the song and so doesn't break the flow of the EP.
Anaal Nathrakh leaves you with their final number being a cover of Mayhem's ancient song Carnage. I actually think by ending this journey with something familiar, they've provided a really good closer for the music. It's like having survived the annihilation of mankind at the hands of some great unseen evil, only that once you have been captured and are awaiting your final breath, it is revealed that the one responsible for taking away all you held dear was someone you'd known your whole life. "Holy shit, you see that fuckin' head come apart, man?"
So basically it's an excellent fucking demo. It was the band's first demo EP which would first establish their presence in the then massive underground black metal scene (and now even bigger). Being just a single band in such a large scene, Anaal Nathrakh definitely needed something special about them. Anaal Nathrakh is such a refreshing band in the face of such blatant commercialism like that of Dimmu and Cradle. Throughout the 1990s, black metal developed and established its unusual aesthetics of sinister atmosphere, relentless energy, and an overwhelming darkness about it. These four tracks demonstrate all of these on an astounding level. Listening to this EP produces the feeling of it luring you in with a friendly face, teasing on your deepest desires, only to destroy everything you ever cared about, everyone you ever loved. You and you alone will be spared to witness the brutal slaughter of this worthless fucking humanity, never blinking for an instant as the world is overrun by the cast down and you are left weeping blood in the horror of it all. Great for picking up chicks!
This is the first anyone heard from these British Black Metallers. This is fast, underground Black Metal - something Anaal Nathrakh is not assosiated with anymore and that's a pity.
This demo basically consists of 4 good-length tracks. The self-titled tracks stands out and it shows a band that's willing to play relentless, fast and raw Black Metal. Necrodeath is another fast track with a lot of standard tremelo riffing and of course, the underground sound. The third track, Iceblasting Stormwinds (Part I), though paced, is perhaps the most musically rich song of the album. It shows that these guys did have a lot of potential from the beginning. You can ever heard solos throughout the demo on each track. The last track, Carnage, is a pretty mediocre track and makes the experience boring. It's got blast-beats and fast riffing but I'm not blown away by it.
To sum it all up, this demo does show this band's willingness to produce fast, underground Black Metal and I'm sure had they continued doing this, they would've become the premier UK Black Metal outfit.