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The War To End Nothing - 93%

Larry6990, November 20th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Metal Blade Records

Forget everything you’ve seen over Remembrance weekend, this is the most poignant and effective piece of anti-war material you will encounter. After the splendid (but somehow overlooked) The Whole Of The Law last year, English extreme metallers Anaal Nathrakh bounce right back with an album that really has something to say, and has found the right platform and timespan with which to say it. It should go without saying; war is shit. It’s a fucking pointless waste of life and often evokes intense emotions whenever brought up in conversation. So, who better to manifest these intense emotions into music than the band who have the reputation as ‘that band your grandmother thinks all metal bands sound like’? A New Kind Of Horror is laden with WWI imagery, including lyrics inspired by famous poets of the era (you bet your ass Wilfred Owen is in there!) and bolstered with Nathrakh’s inimitable brand of industrial-tinged blackened grindcore.

Production-wise, this is as heavy as the band have sounded without losing control or crossing into unintelligible (which is a problem I encountered on 2014’s Desideratum). Kenney’s guitar tone has real gravitas on its bottom string, as displayed clearly on the opening track “The Road To…” and the verses of “Obscene As Cancer”. Drum programs are perfectly mixed and incredibly well composed – never feeling excessive or beyond what the music requires. Meanwhile, Dave Hunt’s vocal athletics are, to be frank, amazing. His iconic distorted screams have never wavered in quality, whilst his majestic cleans – though utilized less here – have gained a sense of nobility, especially in the grandiose “New Bethlehem”. As a bonus, those mind-bending falsetto wails are also back! Remember how they made your eyes widen on 2017’s “Extravaganza!”? Well, “The Reek Of Fear” has them in droves – along with a deliciously evil synth brass sound.

With some dubious clarity surrounding the circumstances, Anaal Nathrakh have ended their lyrical silence and now some are actually available to find online! I would argue that the thematic content of this record begs for listeners to not only find what lyrics they can, but read the CD booklet and immerse themselves in the premise of each cut. It transforms tracks like “Mother Of Satan” from a sarcastic, almost hilarious, comment on black metal, into a painfully realistic lament (though, admittedly, it is therapeutic to hear Dave screaming ‘SATAN!’ over and over again!). This LP has a queer sense of accessibility, insomuch as I would bet even non-metal fans would nod along to – but not necessarily enjoy – some of the album’s catchier moments. Speaking of catchy, the jewel in this record’s crown is the monstrous “Forward!”. Phenomenally heavy and conceptually horrifying; this is the most convincing anti-war message I’ve ever come across. Using a machine-gun and reloading sample as part of your main riff? I feel tears of anger swelling whenever I listen to this.

The inclusion of quotes and themes from early 20th-century poetry envelopes this album in a sense of honour and grandeur, combined with an almost wistful bitterness that can only be described as ‘human’. This is a very ‘human’ work that I hope speaks to every listener on a deep level. It urges us to mourn, to remember, to learn and to always question authority. Maybe this strikes more of a chord with me because I have taken part in so many memorial services devoted to the first world war. But this is just one opinion from a disgruntled Welshman who is cautiously optimistic for the future. A New Kind Of Horror will conjure different emotions in whoever experiences it. But the bottom line is: you really should listen to it. As a favour to your ears, an extreme form of misanthropic release, and a sardonic reminder of the beauty and burden of being human.