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When the habitually even-tempered suddenly fly into a passion, that explosion is apt to be more impressive than the outburst of the most violent amongst us.
Margery Allingham, Death of a Ghost (1934)
This quote, taken from this crime novel, might resume Anaal Nathrakh’s sixth outing, Passion, in a convincing manner.
The British masters of aural chaos are back from almost two years of silence since In the Constellation of the Black Widow; a masterful display of musical savagery, yet filled with unpredictable directions. Simply put a masterpiece. It was their best effort since Domine Es Non Dignus which appeared in 2005. Taking this fact into consideration, one might simply accuse Anaal Nathrakh of producing album after album, work after work, year after year, relying on the same formula on each of their records. It’s not much of a change, but more of a fresh approach in the mix, revitalizing their sound whilst still being driven by the bleak, dissonant atmosphere of black metal, the brutal, muscled fury of death metal and the hyper-rapid, dazzling fervor of grindcore. They have definitely succeeded on this task of carrying their signature sound once again on Passion. However, one question needs to be asked: is it a worthy sequel to its predecessor? Definitely, despite its small drawbacks.
Beginning with a typical silent introduction, displayed in a forty-five second agony and soft guitar chords, “Volenti Non Fit Iniuria” unleashes ravenous riffs and powerful percussion that ascends and descends into spiralous madness, dominated by blast-beats and gravity blasts, leaving aside the fact that a drum machine was used again for this record. It might seem unoriginal and quite redundant. Nevertheless, Mick Kenney’s wizardry is more than appreciated here, although it’s really Dave “V.I.T.R.I.O.L.” Hunt’s vocals that come out into the open field, so to speak; more hag-ridden, anguished, yet powerful when he enters a Rob Halford-like range. If you think Passion is Hell is Empty and all the Devils are Here II, you might be correct since it has overwhelming melodic moments. This is probably the first drawback of the record as far as I can tell. It goes back into a more harmonious, almost déjà-vu territory. Take “Drug-Fucking Abomination” and “Le Diabolique Est L’ami Du Simplement Mal” for example. Being the longest track on the record, the first one is extremely diversified with its slow bounces at the beginning that transpose themselves into explosive annihilation afterwards, whilst containing groovy parts that might displease the most hardcore fans of the band. The same goes for the second track, extremely reminiscent of Hell is Empty and all the Devils are Here with its twirls and spins, even containing a surprising breakdown near its end, but still noteworthy in the band’s case. Another drawback that might be noted, especially during the listening of these songs is the production. I feel that Kenney’s producing, whilst still being a cut above the rest in this genre, might feel a bit oversaturated. The indocile waves of fury bury the guitars and a great portion of vocals into the mix, which is a bit disappointing since Hunt is a skillful vocalist.
On the other hand, they have introduced shorter tracks on this record, i.e. “Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria” and “Locus of Damnation”, justifying the consistent, tenacious aggression that has been a remarkable aspect of the band ever since their 2001 debut The Codex Necro. Another benefit lies in the fact that they managed to bring a more diabolical and repressing atmosphere into everything. “Tot Huetet Uebel” is a pure nihilistic, suicidal manifestation either emanating from Hunt himself or from the twisted guest vocalist that is Rainer Landfermann, formerly of Germany’s suicide rockers Bethlehem. He shows that he can give equal measures to the antics of Kvarforth from Shining and Atilla Csihar from Mayhem. “Paragon Pariah” contains the most effective clean-sung chorus since “Shatter the Empyrean” from Hell is Empty… and “When Lion Devours Both Dragon and Child” from Eschaton. The menacing Napalm Death-meets-1349 revisit of “Who Thinks of the Executioner?” bursts into an earth-shattering finale that forces a fragile mind to submit to its untimely demise. “Ashes Screaming Silence” and “Portrait of the Artist” are a more-than-satisfying fashion to end this record, especially with the machine-gun turbulence of the former, complemented by the defunct band Khanate’s twisted vocalist Alan Dubin, contrasted with the swarthy pulsations of the latter, courtesy of Mories de Jung from one-man experimental black metal act Gnaw Their Tongues.
Even though it presents itself mostly in a regressive form and might not be the album that we all might have expected, Passion still proves itself a worthy contender on every critic’s year end-list. In Anaal Nathrakh’s case, regression is good, since they are unmatchable when it comes to mastering the art of musical mutilation. None have done this better than Anaal Nathrakh.
Standout tracks: Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria, Le Diabolique Est L’ami Du Simplement Mal, Tot Huetet Uebel, Paragon Pariah, Who Thinks of the Executioner? and Ashes Screaming Silence
Anaal Nathrakh has never really been a band I was too into to be honest. I can’t say that I am a fan, but I still listen to them for time to time. I really enjoy their last album, “In the Constellation of the Black Widow”, which was an amazing piece through and through. Even still, one album through all the band’s efforts? That’s a bad score in my opinion. This album was another good album, but it certainly wasn’t anything like Constellation.
It opens like any other Anaal Nathrakh album. Pseudo-sinister ambience, gain intro, loud, obnoxious scream. It’s amazing they haven’t tried a new formula yet. However, the first song was pretty catchy to be honest. I find myself having a few moments when I actually get involved in the guitars, but the drums were so stepped down from the last record. It was pitiful to hear them go back to the basics and blast through the entire thing (minus maybe one or two parts). In fact the majority of the record followed this method. Sinister ambience, gain intro, loud scream, lots of blast beats. Hell, if I want blasts throughout my song, I’ll go listen to Nasum. I think the only song that really stood out from the blasts was the second track, “Drug Fucking Abomination”, and what an amazing name. Seriously, guys, are you kidding me? I actually renamed this song in my Itunes to DFA just to get passed the laughable name a bit and get more into the song.
The musicianship is actually good, but it’s nothing extremely special. The last album was so amazing, yet each piece was differentiated from black metal to grind to death metal. This album was a solid grind piece, and for them, it just makes me laugh. Especially when they pride themselves on their versatility. The musician portion (Michael Kenney) shows so much talent, yet so little time taken in the music itself. It’s like he knows his talent, yet thinks that other people don’t. Ah well, it’s a good album in and of itself in that aspect.
As for the vocalist, well, he’s nothing special. He’s so edited, it’s not really even him singing anymore, but a computer. When I saw them live, he had a terrible sound. Then I looked online to see if he was just having an off day, and nope – all his performances sound like that. That means that he’s using computers to edit his sound. I have nothing to say about him other than I’m not impressed by him in the slightest.
All in all, it’s a decent album if you want grind, but if you’re looking for that black metal edge to Anaal Nathrakh, it’s not really that noticeable this time through. I probably won’t listen to this album much, as it falls to the back, but it’s worth a listen at the very least.
UK blackgrinders Anaal Nathrakh released their highly-anticipated sixth album, Passion, last month on Candlelight. It's a boon to lovers of brutality everywhere.
If you're unfamiliar with the band, here's what you need to know: they are one of a very few bands who combine black metal and grindcore. This makes for an unbelievably fast, brutal, blackened, blastbeat-driven assault that's unparallelled on either side of the Atlantic. The modus operandi for Passion goes something like this: first, lay down a blackened but heavy groove with guitar and bass; second, brutalize it with flawless, high-speed, and interesting drums; finally, add the passion with screeching vocals and melodic high drama with clean vocals. And, do all of these things at the same time.
It sounds like it should be too chaotic to work, but it absolutely slays. Rarely has a performance been so fast and tight while still retaining all the energy and conviction needed to make metal good. It doesn't hurt that the songs are great, either. They've clearly put a great deal of thought into them. The force your feet to move along with the drum beats while your head bobs to the riffs. And while there are a couple of sections where they engage in some instrumental meandering, even these seem intelligently crafted to give you breathing space between moments of fury.
The Verdict: Anaal Nathrakh has done it again. There really is nobody else in the same league.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
With six albums under their belts, the general content of an Anaal Nathrakh is pretty clear, things may get a little more death metal-y or a bit more melodic, but as a rule, you're going to get super fast blast beats, a speedy mix of black metal, grindcore and even some more metal-core styled riffs, and sweeping melodic leads, all topped off with insane screaming and a massive list of other vocal stylings. Passion delivers on all of these elements in large quantities, but it also seems to be trying the hardest of any of their last four releases to be trying to switch things up a little. The band both steps back to a rawer production, higher and more pure black metal content, industrial feeling, less vocal multi tracking, and continues absorbing more metalcore influence into their chuggier moments while adding on a few new and more progressive elements. The resulting album ticks a lot of boxes, but is lacking in some other ways which the band usually nails, and is ultimately disappointing, but is still another excellent addition to their exquisite and violent discography.
First let's address the older elements that have returned, all of which should delight anyone who loves the first album and EP. Firstly most of the fast music here is more black metal than it's been since they changed styles on Domine Non Es Dignus, is it to the extent of Codex Necro? Of course not, but it's a welcome change to hear out and out tremolo riffs guiding the way instead of the more grindcore styled stuff we've possible been over exposed too on the last couple of albums. Also, the number of these fast riffs has grown, particularly in the first six songs. Not to say this thing isn't still full of chugging, and that this chugging is bad, but this is the first time I've been reminded of Mayhem by these guys since the EP. Adding to the black metal feel is the production, which is quieter and dirtier than what they've done for a while. Again, don't expect the debut, but expect something rawer than and not as clean as anything they've done since DNED. Everything is mixed nicely and everything is clear, so no need to worry about an over done level of grit, but it takes a few songs to really get into. The clean vocals in particular are very muddy, and on first listen sound a bit flat and off, but repeated listens soon brings them back around to being as epic as ever. The other vocal enhancement comes from a cutting back on the number of tracks going on at once, I mean it's still multi tracked to hell because it sounds cool, but things are definitely dialled back from 2009's In the Constellation of the Black Widow. The most noticeable passage of multi tracking is actually the chorus of "Tod Huetet Uebel" which is sung by someone other than Hunt, a previous vocalist of Bethlehem and current bassist of awesome tech death band Pavor. He is just awful by the way.
On the other hand, this album continues to charge headfirst into the deathcore styled chugging and melody of the last album. Firstly basically every chug riff has moved into -core territory. Yes, they've always chugged even going back to the demos, but they always had metallic, heavy chug riffs, this stuff however is much more in the stylings of metalcore bands that trigger little kids to mosh and kick the air like schizophrenic ninjas. You know the style, sharp bursts of guitars which cut away to silence between notes, usually filling the moment of guitar silence with a counter punch on the snare drum. They've used it before on songs like "The Unbearable Filth of the Soul", but this time every midpaced riff on the album is one of these. Basically every song has one, but they usually just pop in for a bar or two and then leave, however the last two songs, starting with "Who Thinks of the Executioner" really base their whole songs about these riffs, and they really drop the ball after the impressive first portion of the album. There is only one genuine breakdown on here, on "Ashes Screaming Silence", it's not as overt and out of the blue sounding as the one on "The Lucifer Effect" from 2009, but it's not used as effectively either.
Passion also brings the melodic side to the fore, the use of the melodic choruses on "Volenti Non Fit Infuria" or "Drug-Fucking Abomination" has been around for many, many years by the band, and comes as no surprise, but the lengthy melodic lead-in to the later is something they've only ever attempted with Satanarchist, and this one takes it much further, showing the band being out and out melodic and controlled for well over three minutes before it even starts alluding to the chaos that is to follow. Along with this, "Le Diabolique Est L'ami Du Simple" is the bands first song to utilize a clean sung verse, and pulls it's off competently, but "Paragon Pariah" is probably the song which deserves the most attention for it's melodic chorus. Usually the bands’ clean choruses feature a sweeping riff over some still very violent music, this song is different, the chorus itself is genuinely tame musically, it's just a flat out melodic and nice piece of music, not a sweeping melody over chaos, which if they've done it before, they've never done it this overtly.
The final change is the song writing, while I've never actually found them to be too offensively repetitive, one thing they've had for three albums now is an unchanging writing formula. Basically they wrote in a pop structure, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, a minute or two of some other stuff, chorus. They used this set up pretty exclusively, after 3 albums of this the band has finally changed things up, the songs are more progressive, sure riffs return, and this is a good thing, but the songs tend to sprawl a little less predictably than usual, making the music quite a bit more enjoyable and thrilling. The exceptions to this rule, such as the opener, which do feel quite dated in comparison to the other music structurally speaking.
But of course regardless of all this other stuff people come to this band to hear chaotic black/grind with a sense of melody and majesty, and yes Passion delivers this, and does it for the main portion of its existence, it has various little nuances, but more or less you're still getting super violent, catchy music and by and large you shouldn't be completely disappointed. The main issues with this release are the last two songs which are just bad, and the opener which is just a very flat version of "More of Fire than Blood", the 5 songs jammed in between them are of full Nathrakh quality and offer up some new thrills. If you like the band, there'll probably be some initial disappointment, but it'll come round, if you don't like the band you probably won't notice any of the changes since they don't really affect the core sound. Good, very good, even great, but not magnificent compared to the band's best.
Those yearning for a dial back to the harsh climes of this British duo's debut The Codex Necro might once again find themselves alienated with the latest Anaal Nathrakh full-length. This is not a band which prides itself upon retreading trampled ground, and oh what grounds these two have trampled. In the Constellation of the Black Widow was the band's most viably obvious and accessible to a wider audience of extreme rock and metal connoisseurs, and Passion is an extension of their newfound polish and appeal. But fear not: Hunt and Kenney are incapable of restraining their vicious sides for long, so you can bet your britches there are numerous moments among the melodic intonations that are manifest to nail your weary limbs to the nearest wooden edifice.
It takes only about two tracks here to curry the wide range of the sect: "Volenti Non Fit Inuria" opens with trembling feedback and a dire, clean guitar line before arching into its terrifying, descending/ascending guitar arches, soaring ICS-Vortex styled vocals and pendulous brutality; while "Drug-Fucking Abomination" (what a title) builds a dire choir substrate behind a hellish, simmering swell of grooves and monstrous melodic plucking that will beat the ever living slush out of your digestive tract. Let me put it bluntly: if Constellation got your nethers dripping with blooded anticipation, Passion is the promised, violent orgasm. In Anaal Nathrakh tradition, you've got some scathing, intermittent onslaughts via "Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria" and "Locus of Damnation" that bastardize the band's punk, grind and black metal influences into a cohesive uniqueness with more than expected depth.
Deeper in lie further surprises, like the melodic architecture hidden beneath the thrusting vitriol of "Tod Huetet Uebel" and its shrieking oration. The rambling black bottom rocking bombast of "Paragon Pariah" or "Who Thinks of the Executioner" (again, what a title), both with more balled fistfucking potency than any handful of d-beat or hardcore kid grinders. The industrial agonies manifest through the punctual, punishing "Ashes Screaming Silence". As with nearly any record in this band's career, there are layers upon layers of provocation awaiting your attention span, and if you don't mind that the production standards have improved since their earlier efforts, you'll find yourself nearly as thrilled as you ever were. Punishing and pathetic, like a mouth full of the finest cocaine while razors skirt the wrists and second chances disappear. A circus act replete with sinister serial killers. Sign the fucking waiver and know amusement!