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Violence and Latin Stuff - 80%

GuntherTheUndying, January 15th, 2015

Anaal Nathrakh has aged gracefully (if one finds cause to call a group whose sonic assault burns in a little-kids-forced-to-bathe-in-napalm kind of way graceful). Dave Hunt and Mick Kenney, a twosome that is quite gruesome, have tremendous chemistry; their equilibrium of unrelenting musical agony and Hunt’s hellish vocals makes for a superb harmony transmitting the dark aura that is Anaal Nathrakh. The band’s evolution is the real treat, as its hateful days of grinding black metal have slowly incorporated user-friendly elements without jeopardizing quality. “Desideratum” carries the fire of “Vanitas” and continues fanning the smoldering pandemonium embodied by this group’s latter-day era in an analogous approach of attack. Geared to endure the endless rampage; hard and armored like any Anaal Nathrakh record.

Compared to the band’s venom-spewing days of “The Codex Necro,” Anaal Nathrakh has opted for a more accessible production philosophy: the guitars are cleaner, the drums more synthesized, the overall mix less grainy. The songs have developed a modern knack among the project’s butchering style of grinding black metal, with plenty of chorus and melody-driven structures. “Desideratum” is based on these things; an appropriate sequel to “Vanitas” that offers the strengths of this band without any ingredients added. The game has changed a bit for Anaal Nathrakh, as industrial passages and the inclusion of modern elements continue to gain ground. However, this is mostly a portrait of Hunt and Kenney sticking to what they know without screwing up what they know; Anaal Nathrakh is a sight to behold, as usual.

I’m still waiting for the day when Kenney’s riffs turn stale. His death/black metal sequences, though standard fare for Anaal Nathrakh, manage to still be memorable and without a trace that he is overlapping his prior works. Robust chugs and enticing melodic parts give way to Hunt’s multiple vocals styles without making the songs clogged up or redundant. The melodic guitar work is especially much more profound compared to their other works. “The One Thing Needful,” “The Joystream,” and “Idol” are the best tunes here, mainly due to Hunt’s clean voice, which is surprisingly nice next to the slashing riffs and frenetic paces. More or less the usual Anaal Nathrakh output, but if it ain’t broke, there’s no reason to fix it. There are also numerous blast beats, believe it or not.

I’m not too big on the industrial bits, which I mentioned have been given a bigger piece of the pie. The electro parts change things up, but it’s not like Anaal Nathrakh needs to force in larger sections of industrial influence to show how flexible they are. The prime moments of “Desideratum” are found in the typical foundations of strength within the body of Anaal Nathrakh—the slaughtering riffs, the inhuman vocals, the relentless hostility. Although this is probably the least noteworthy work of theirs, “Desideratum” shows no signs of the Anaal Nathrakh machine taking a breather. Hunt and Kenney have become one of metal’s better duos, and “Desideratum” serves as another exciting chapter in their collaboration of all things vile.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Farting - 15%

dommedagssalme, January 4th, 2015

When The Codex Necro was released in 2001, I was blown away. It hit me with such intensity. I was astonished with how much identity and power this band had. Since this album, however, and the phenomenal When Fire Rains Down from The Sky, Anaal Nathrakh have slowly but surely taken confident steps backwards in the name of progression. This album marks an embarrassingly definitive manifestation of this development. Things began to go wrong with Domine Non Es Dignus, which formally introduced some startlingly plain writing and song structures, and the clean vocals that have since characterized the band's output. Eschaton seemed to invoke on occasion some of the intensity of their early output, but noting has come even close to the vitriolic euphoria of The Codex Necro.

Two things inspire me to offer opinions on things. The first are things of integrity which I genuinely adore. The second is things which take their audience for fools. Many people have been fooled by the product Anaal Nathrakh have been peddling for a number of years now. When I say product, I mean just that. Song structures are now extremely generic, and the musicality displays a lethal lack of inspiration. This band have been shamelessly plagiarising themselves and pandering to people since they realised they were "on to a good thing". If I were being lenient, I could blame Anaal Nathrakh for treading water, and repeatedly releasing marginal variations on the same uninteresting album since 2009's In The Constellation Of The Black Widow. However, their approach has regrettably been less innocent than that. If you listen hard to what has constituted latter Anaal Nathrakh material, you may be able to discern a increasingly redundant, overtly systematic and simplistic method of songwriting which, clearly, is intended to generate money and success. This album is essentially a pop record. I don't say this for effect. Beyond the massive production, speed and screaming lies a tame ode to compromise. Desideratum can be easily deconstructed. The songs follow a very particular pattern, and each one is nothing more than a rearrangement, or, even worse, a simple reiteration of that pattern. Guitar-wise, utterly shit leads play over basic rhythm guitars. This combination is one of the many poverties of the album. The rhythm very often plays offensively simple sequences of ascending / descending notes / chords, while the lead dances over the top with terribly accessible and one-dimensional progressions. Most notable for their shitness are those ABCB lead sequences, as in the first lead appearance one-and-a-half minutes into the opening song (this particular format litters Desideratum). Simplicity is by no means a bad thing, but it MUST be coupled with conviction. There is no spirit here though. The guitar used to sound like it was being played violently and intuitively, but it now sounds composed and totally on-kilter. THAT is the real distinction. Guitars are no longer schizophrenic and shrill, we now have "controlled craziness", the musical equivalent of paint ball. The format of riff arrangements may seem to some like their earlier stuff, but to these ears there is a night-and day difference. The result is passages which are designed to make an immediate impression, at the expense of any meaningful value.

Over these guitars we get to hear, in most songs, the now-farcical clean vocals. They are, rightfully, divisive, and are here more caricature-like and just plain ridiculous than ever. The calculated intention is one of creating a grand, emotionally-charged compound feeling of elation, power and perhaps a hint of melancholy (because it's such an oh-so deep emotion they're getting at), but this emotion is, sadly, illusory. Ironically, these hilarious sung passages are obviously aimed at creating emotional dynamics within the songs. They are choruses, in the most explicit and unforgivable way possible. The handful of tracks without singing still exhibit copy-paste pop-song structures. They are so musically lifeless and devoid of sentiment (yeah, I know he sounds like he's singing his heart out, but he isn't), that it actually makes me laugh. It is laughable in and of itself, but is especially farcical given what it presumes to sound like; something "epic", emotional and powerful. Just like how even though a fart is, in and of itself, funny, it is at its funniest when it is at odds with its situation. The singing is often harmonised and usually ends with the emitting of an extended stupid croon note, which has that pathetic waver that he obviously thinks sounds so good.

The "aggressive" sections are marginally better, although only in context. In themselves they are dull. I say marginally better, because they normally bookend the awful choruses. Kenney knows what kind of riffs people think are brutal, and offers little more than, at best, very low-quality Anaal Nathrakh riffs. At worst, deceptively docile riffs spoonfeed metal fans who are too feeble to commit to true intensity in music. Additionally, the increasingly-inaccurately named V.I.T.R.I.O.L knows what noises to make to qualify as intense. Those are not qualifications recognised by this particular examining body, though. These now-pretenders have the same relationship to true aggression as the one between synthetic beauty (clothing, make-up, cosmetic surgery, etc.) and real physical beauty. That is to say, the former is in each case an imposter, masquerading as the latter. The spirit of fury is now gone. The athletic, muscular, furious creature behind the band's demos and first two proper releases has gradually become a puny fake-tanned has-been with pectoral implants. The third primary constituent of the album, the breakdowns, can be broken down the most easily; they are just shit breakdowns.

The greater presence of electronics is an unwelcome change. The vocals are more subject to digital treatment than ever, including an annoying tendency to undergo that gay electronic sound-strobe effect within the last second of a scream. A couple of samples are thrown in, but just sound gay ("parental discretion is advised"...for fuck's sake...). The dance music / dubstep elements are worthless, although again, the intention is obviously to evoke a technological, apocalyptic ambience. Early Anaal Nathrakh sounded apocalyptic in that grainy, rusty, greasy factory in hell way, and had a raging human soul at its heart; a kind of biomechanical synthesis. This however is a record which could sorely use some human intervention. At this point, I will note the admittedly still-excellent drum programming. I have always loved Mick's skills in this department, and it is really the only perceptible survivor of the overall degradation of Anaal Nathrakh. Well, it has survived after a fashion, since Kenney has had to rein in its nuance and vigour, to reflect the watered- and dumbed-down music.

I have not thought to investigate the lyrics. The discernible ones are simply what is now expected of the band. General anti-humanity. Hard to believe in them as true expressions any more, when the obvious, obvious goal is to get as many people onside as possible. I can't stress enough how low-brow and populist this album is. Nietzsche makes a sham appearance (The One Thing Needful, and the album's title which means "what is needed"), although I think it's just name-dropping really. I believed in Human, All Too Fucking Human, but if Zarathustra could comment on Desideratum, it would be one of the flies of the market-place. His idea of "the one thing needful" has been misappropriated. Anaal Nathrakh couldn't be further from the mountainside, the only location from which one can heartily and justifiably criticise. They exist in a glasshouse in the middle of the city. And he would damn them for being so very overripe in their glasshouse. They so, so want to make a good impression and be loved that it's almost pitiful. I cannot think right now of another band who have so enthusiastically abandoned integrity. They have fully submitted to expectation, convention and fame, but submission is for only a certain kind of person...

Mick Kenney knows exactly what he is doing (and what he's doing is working; this album was released by Metal Blade). It's just a shame that so few people see this band for what they now are. Hopefully it's more than just me and the band themselves that do. Nowadays, Anaal Nathrakh just want to be cool, and this album is necessarily trivial. Ostensibly impressive to the newcomer perhaps, or anyone who got into them when they began to get a higher profile. However, anyone who, like me, was bowled over back in 2001, will I expect understand why I might accuse this band of riding on the back of a good reputation for a long time now. Desideratum is the nadir of this band's career, that is, until their next album comes out. In the same way as music repeatedly dubbed from tape to tape degrades in sound quality, so have Anaal Nathrakh's albums in quality. The fact that these concessions have been made gradually and subtly is perhaps why many less astute listeners have failed to notice how piss-poor they have become. Music for the worst kind of dummy; the one that thinks everyone else is dumb.

Chaotic Doldrums Installation: Complete - 55%

doomknocker, December 23rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Metal Blade Records (Slipcase)

It's been quite a while since I stumbled back into this British black/grind act's desolate world, and last I checked I was wracked with numbing violence that, though intense at first, died out after a while. Maybe that's the real name of the game, but ultimately I never feel all that fulfilled by an A.N. listening session after the first few songs. Not a whole lot of staying power if nothing else, which is a drag for them as their method of maniacal savagery is done with the worst intentions in mind ("worst" being "best" in this regard). It's with that in mind that I find myself partaking in their latest, a sort of clean slate if you will...

Those looking for a morass of chaos will once again find it here. While not straying too far from the sounds of old, a further descent down a processed, industrial vibe has found its way in, a bit more factory-borne than forest, the latter per usual with with the style at hand. The general feel of the album isn't quite as obnoxious as I remember Anaal Nathrakh being, which itself lends to a better listen overall. There WERE moments that got on my nerves, though, and I was really hoping they would tone down the noise and wildness and let the music itself shine through during said times, but for the most part it only irked as opposed to pissed off. While still teeming with a vicious and black as pitch aura around itself, "Desideratum" is more Blade Runner than Hellraiser given the level of sampling, drum programming and voice effects that showcase a bleak future as opposed to a bleak past (the "Beautiful People"-like intro to "A Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair" being a prime example if ever you needed one). At times it works when it gels as well as can be with everything else, but more often than that it really just got in the way; it was disconcerting to leap from blistering death metal riffing to a sudden burst of sci-fi drone sounds effects and dance floor percussion. But maybe that's just me...?

Some of the better spots came when you could actually decipher what was going on; the melodic lead segments were pure money (the chorus and bridge break of "The One Thing Needful", for example, showing that A.N. is capable of crafting memorable stuffs), as were the underscoring keyboard lines that added that perfect amount of stylistic depth without being so overbearing as to drown everything out. That being said, the songs speed by in such a frenzy that it's hard to sit back and enjoy those small moments of glory, though thankfully not devolving into a Behemoth-level laughfest. The main issue with that is, like a lot of other brutal forms of extreme music in the world, you can only take so much of it before it wears you out, only so much blasting, shrieking and 200+ bpm tempos, all of which combine into the musical equivalent of running a marathon in a single stretch without stopping for water or a breather no matter how much you want it. Simple doses of moderation are key to maintaining focus, and if the Anaal boys snuck in a track or two that didn't rely so heavily on jackhammer rhythms and whirlwind execution I wouldn't've found myself pausing or skipping along the disc after the third song or so. But that's their way of doing things, and it seems to work well enough for them to continue, so I cannot wholly fault them for that. I guess?

In the end "Desideratum" was OK for the most part, rather good where it counts and not as irritating as I recall the duo being in years past, but still not something I'd find myself busting out all that often. Maybe if I'm stricken with the compelling need to be bombarded with a mayhemic musical assault this will certainly do the trick. But every day? I think not.

A stream of misanthropic joy - 80%

Xyrth, November 23rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Metal Blade Records (Slipcase)

A lot has transpired for the Birmingham duo responsible for unleashing the blackened tour de force that was The Codex Necro at the turn of the century, an album that ensured the name Anaal Nathrakh would be forever carved upon the headbanging cortex of every extreme metal fan that considers him or herself a connoisseur of the darker, more brutal metal arts. Their evolution has led them to inject their virulent black grinding industrial noise with more accessible elements, such as melody and clear vocals, a trait that of course has not been all that well accepted amongst the trver fans, those fiercely clinging to the belief that extreme metal should remain 666% extreme, else it should be discarded and rebuffed.

Well, to each its own, but for this lover of the dark, brutal metal arts (most metal arts, in fact), the accessibility found in Anaal Nathrakh’s latest outings has not necessarily diminished the quality of their craft nor eased the punishment they inflict upon our eager eardrums. Au contraire, V.I.T.R.I.O.L. and Irrumator’s odes of post-apocalyptical misanthropy embed more easily unto our mashed brains now that they employ their current array of soaring choruses and dramatically harmonic tremolo riffs. Besides, those “commercial” elements constitute only the ornaments, as the core remains as violent and blackened as usual. So don’t even try spitting the word “commercial” at these gentlemen pals! Nor “sell-outs”! Since when blasting at over 200 bpm has become the proven path of commercial success?

Now that I’ve gone all the way in defending Anaal Nathrakh’s legit artistry and current sound, I must say that most songs found in Desideratum, their newest malformed baby, tend to blend into one another. In contrast to the more varied Vanitas from 2012, this, their eight release, is a more predictable beast. Multiple replays help to sort out and remember each song separately, but it’s inevitable not to think of this as a whole, forty-one minute experience. Almost every track displays Anaal Nathrakh’s tasty tremolo passages, processed distorted sounds, inhuman shrieking and merciless battering, though in that final aspect the duo has opted for a more organic sound this time around, and a more varied percussive attack that goes beyond their signature hyper fast blasting, ranging from techo beats to d-beat patterns.

Speaking of variety, the album opens with a slow, somewhat djent-ish instrumental that serves as the entrée to the following banquet of obliteration. “Unleash” then follows, as the blast-fest starts and never lets up. This first proper track serves as the blueprint for the rest of the album; extreme tempos intersected with breakdowns, industrial scraps here and there, glorious tremolo picking and a myriad of vocal deliveries. V.I.T.R.I.O.L. goes for an anthemic Ripper Owens impersonation during the chorus of this tune, and it’s fucking spot on! He employs this style in other passages throughout the record, and I feel it brings it to a whole new level. I honestly checked it up if Tim Owens did not guest-sing on this one! Just listen to the chorus in “The One Thing Needful”, impressive! But for the most part, his vocal delivery remains the expected caustic assault of black rasps and sparse deathly growls.

Even though most songs sound alike, there are some that I feel are more focused and memorable. The already mentioned “The One Thing Needful” is catchy as hell. The title-track is also worth mentioning with its thrashy intro and constant changes of pace. The intense “Idol”, the herald of this release, also stands a bit taller than most tracks here, with a short but acidic guitar solo. And finally, “The Joystream”, probably my favorite of the bunch, while it sounds a bit metalcore-ish at times (nothing wrong with that for me though) it has another Ripper-esque unforgettable chorus that more than compensates for its simple structure. They remind me a bit of Converge also on that one, and, as you can hear by yourselves if you’re open-minded enough, Anaal Nathrakh absorbs different influences that go beyond the expected extreme metal spectrum. While not their best perhaps, Desideratum is a nasty (in a good way) sonic immersion for the worth your money’s investment and head-banging time.


Originally written for Metal Recusants [metalrecusants.com]

Something definitely not needed or wanted. - 45%

OneSizeFitzpatrick, November 6th, 2014

It must be incredibly hard for a band to release an album that's widely regarded as their best release 5 albums into their career. In the case of electro blackened terror grind act Anaal Nathrakh, that album is In the Constellation of the Black Widow. And ever since it's release in 2009, everything they've put out since has been more or less held to the same standard as that chaotic and ecstatic masterpiece of black metal and grindcore.

With that being said, Desideratum is just bad. All past merits aside from this duo, there's not much I can say about this sad lump of techno/dubsteppy, bass drop-laden core music. The three songs Nathrakh released prior to the album were at best kind of cool, and at worst, boring. The only track pre-Desideratum release that I enjoyed was The One Thing Needful, mainly because of the chorus which features V.I.T.R.I.O.L.'s operatic singing in pretty top notch form, but the combination of the breakdowns and melodic riffs in between lead me to get sort of a Reroute To Remain vibe from it overall.

Which brings me back to the main thing that kills me about this album; the goddamn breakdowns in almost every track. This isn't anything new to the band, they've dabbled with some well-placed breakdowns on previous releases and I'm all for some exploratory core riffs in any band, but to throw them into every song just saturates the amount of dead space on an album that could have been filled with some more generic AN style riffs. Bringing me to the second major thing that tiffs me about this album; the recycled melodies and instrumentation. Desideratum feels like a mash of riff-salad leftover from Vanitas. Every track seems to follow a similar "riff, refrain, chorus, repeat" structure, occasionally they'll throw in a nice guitar solo that's way too short and doesn't really go anywhere.

Rage and Red is one of the two tracks on Desideratum I enjoy to an extent. It has some of the only memorable and genuinely catchy riffs accompanied by Dave shouting out "shit-fucking excuses" in the chorus, which made me smile a little bit. The second listenable track being the Joystream, which is accompanied by a similarly catchy melody that stays put for the entirety of the song along with a well executed chorus. Both tracks have a really awkwardly placed breakdown somewhere along the line as well, including what sounds like someone speaking in Finnish on Rage and Red.

Anaal Nathrakh are known to experiment with different sounds on their albums, and the addition of more techno passages actually weren't that bad (I would have preferred stuff more along the lines of what they tried doing on Passion, but still not that bad), but these half-assed breakdowns have got to go. Blame Metal Blade Records, blame Mick Kenney and his dabblings in metalcore side projects or whatever else, but despite being the worst album in their discography, Desideratum still holds some replay value for me. If there's any plus side to this weird new album, it lies in the hope that we might get a full-fledged North American tour now that they've signed over to Metal Blade. I'm disappointed, but I'm not giving up on you, Anaal Nathrakh. I know you can do better. I believe in you, we all believe in you.

"Pure Fucking Necro" - 94%

Sylero, November 6th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Metal Blade Records (Slipcase)

Being a personal fan of Vanitas due to its more diverse approach compared to let's say Hell is Empty... or In the Constellation... (both fantastic albums, don't get me wrong) I didn't think Anaal Nathrakh had really much else to prove in the sense of their pure bone-crushing heaviness or ability to deviate from their core sound yet still sound fantastic... until I listened to this mother fucker!

To really appreciate this piece you need to listen to it as an entire movement (as someone pointed out in another review) to feel its full effect. We've got a great instrumental piece from "Achernota Movebimus" setting the tone for the rest of the album. The heavy guitar riffs accompanied with a choir of agonizing screams and equally heavy synths are as if the gates of hell itself are slowly opening to reveal its madness inside. Then we have (the appropriately titled) "Unleash" which in my personal opinion is one of the bands best album openers. It's fast, it's heavy, it's fucking savage and it makes you feel as if the wallpaper's peeling off your walls and wants to strangle you.

2 of the best features of this album are Dave's shrieking vocals and the greater use of electronics (courtesy of Goretech). Dave's extensive use of his black metal shrieks are really something, it's as if he's drinking sulfuric acid whilst slamming tooth picks under his toe nails and really does add to the desolate and nihilistic tone of the music. I was really curious when I heard who it was being mixed by as I myself am a partial fan of some electronic styles but was really interested to see what this collaboration would bring to the table. Spoiler, it's fucking spectacular. Goretech does an amazing job with the industrial/electronic side also, adding a lot of emotion to the aforementioned tones and giving the album a fresh, new dimension of just how heavy this band can really be when using all of their 'tricks'.

All in all a bloody fantastic release. I understand it might not be for everyone due to some of the elements, but I consider myself to be a real stickler for certain sounds when it comes to my metal... and I am one pleased mother fucker with this album!

Let's set things straight - 86%

Death_Welder, November 4th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Metal Blade Records (Slipcase)

This is Anaal Nathrakh 2014, and this is not The Codex Necro. Thus I was taken a bit by surprise when listening to this, which I feel is the furthest LP they've done from the core Nathrakh sound, but still distinctly theirs. Vanitas had a few instances of intense melody like you'll find on Desideratum, but they've added quite a few breakdowns and more electronics than before. Melody, breakdowns, and electronics don't sound overly exciting for someone into music as extreme as Anaal Nathrakh, but it's done well and I feel adds another niche to their canon.

I cannot stress enough, MELODY, BREAKDOWNS, ELECTRONICS. You have to be open to it to like Desideratum, it's an Anaal Nathrakh album with those three elements featured prominently and that's the shortest and most accurate review I could give. Of course there is the occasional surprise, this time being Of Maggots, and Humanity. The songs starts off with a very punky riff and kicks the most ass on the album. Idol and The Joystream most define this album to me, as More of Fire Than Blood and Lama Sabachthani define their respective albums. One thing that struck me as well is Desideratum is much more enjoyable in full album form, and as such a track by track review isn't conducive to an accurate review. Previous albums had strong standout single tracks that can be listened to over and over, such as When Humanity is Cancer, but this album needs a full listen.

I must be honest in saying this album is in their bottom 3 for me, and time will tell where it ends up definitely. This and Passion are incredibly enigmatic and different, but not firing on all cylinders like the rest. I think there's a bit too much melody and clean singing personally, but as I said this is Anaal Nathrakh v. 2014. The Codex Necro days are long gone, as apparently are the In the Constellation days, but why do we need repeats of those albums? Both favorites of mine but AN have always experimented with bringing every different nuance of the extreme metal genome, so I welcome this album.

Extremism In All Its Finery - 85%

diogoferreira, November 3rd, 2014

Since their foundation back in 1998, the English extremists Anaal Nathrakh have been one of the most brutal and visionary bands in the metal history, giving new life to black metal every time they create music. Even after 16 years of career, their thirst to unleash chaos and havoc through their maligned music hasn’t been put to rest, and to prove it they have released the eighth full-length “Desideratum” in the end of October 2014 via Metal Blade Records.

As a kind of an intro, “Acheronta Movebimus” opens this new album with an industrial sonority with dry and rhythmic riffs, as well as with some mad electronic sounds in the background working as an opener to the second track “Unleash”. In it, in above the massive destruction led by the artillery of guitars and drums, we will be listening to horrific and acute screams that suddenly burst into a melodic chorus consisting in clean vocals – something that was also evident in the album “In The Constellation Of The Black Widow” (2009). This melodic approach is not an isolated one, since it was used here and there through the record, and it is one of the best and most interesting features in “Desideratum”.

These next few words might be outrageous if read by some hard and extreme metalheads, but the beginning of the track “A Firm Foundation Of Unyielding Despair” took me back to my teenage years when listening to Fear Factory, but those young years are long gone. Hopefully, Anaal Nathrakh’s relentless and perseverant spirit was enough to bring me back to “Desideratum”.

Anaal Nathrakh’s skills are so strong and diverse that in “Sub Specie Aeterni (Of Maggots, And Humanity)” we can hear punk, grindcore and even a little bit of metalcore in one single track. Even if the album is wrapped in double pedals and roaring guitar riffs, solos weren’t fully forgotten, as they are present in “Monstrum In Animo”. Other cool additions to “Desideratum” are the orchestrations that go hand in hand with aggressiveness or electronic music verging on hard-techno, which is very noticeable in some moments, even recalling the Italian pioneers Aborym.

In the end, and after listening to it four times in a row, I felt – and still feel – that “Desideratum” is an awesome surprise as we are reaching the end of the year. I state that age makes excellence.

Originally written at www.againstmagazine.com

Desideratum - 88%

Twin_guitar_attack, October 28th, 2014

British black metal duo Anaal Nathrakh have been possibly the most extreme metal band of the 21st century. Since the terrifyingly brutal début The Codex Necro was unleashed in 2001 they’ve been plying their trade of blackened grindcore with soaring cleans at a pace as unrelenting as their music, not only touring extensively, but with Desideratum they’ve produced their eighth album in just thirteen years. The new effort is a continuation of their extreme sound, and once again a grinding intensity is fused with an epic sense of melody in another great release.

All the hallmarks of the band’s sound are present once more from the lightning fast battery of the drum programming, the relentless grinding guitars from Mick Kenney to the diverse vocal style of Dave Hunt, all matched by their brilliant song writing. Instrumental opener Acheronta Movebimus gives a taster of what’s to come with heavy chugged riffs, soaring leads, battering drums and cold industrial electronics setting the atmosphere perfectly for first song proper Unleash. Blastbeats, grinding riffs and inhuman shrieks from Dave open it up and it’s brilliant, moving swiftly into epic melodic cleans. Not only does this album have the best vocal performance since 2009’s In the Constellation of the Black Widow, but the epic choruses and melodies are also the strongest since that album too. The combination of a barbarically heavy sound with powerful music and vocals is their trademark and it’s in full force here once again, but with more industrial overtones than the last few albums.Dave also outdoes himself, snarling, shrieking, screaming, shouting, growling and singing in his best performance since the aforementioned In the Constellation of the Black Widow.

When it comes to the songs, their great song writing is once again on show, with Unleash and The One Thing Needful having that exciting rush of powerful choruses and soaring melodies combined with the force of battering blasts and grinding guitars. Each song has great memorable riffs, and the grindier Monstrum in Animo has a sweeping solo amidst it’s devastating electronics to make up for the lack of cleans, Dave shrieking barbarously instead. A Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair is deliciously heavy, with unfathomably fast blasts and grinding bass giving a devastating low end counterpoint to the fast melodic riffs and snarls.

Sub Specie Aeterni (Of Maggots, and Humanity) is the most ferocious, (not that they’re ever anything but), from those electronic drums in the intro, through to the thick guitar chugs, Dave’s vocals make the track, his screams sound so intense and passionate it’s a wonder he didn’t throw up a lung. But moving forward into barking death growls and aggressive shouts he shows his diversity, and the way he shouts “Fuck your revelations!” in that slower grinding section just reeks of pure anger. The pick of the bunch however is Idol, from the moment the eerie spoken word intro kicks off into soaring riffs, blasts, noisy electronics and Dave’s ear shredding inhuman high pitched shrieks. The melodic chorus is perhaps the best they’ve ever done, Dave’s powerful cleans combined with the great melodies riffs and solos conjure images of Satan emerging from the ground in a pit of hellfire. The sweeping solo just adds to the energy and its one of the best tracks in the Anaal Nathrakh canon, a more appropriate term for their sound being artillery however.

The production is also the warmest they’ve ever had, which accentuates the melodic epic nature of the sound well, especially on The Joystream and Unleash, and the mix is great too; everything audible, balance and brutally destructive.

Overall it’s a phenomenal album and easily surpasses the last two, being more of a complete package than Vanitas and Passion – it’s filled with great songs that are bound to end up on future setlists. It might not offer a great amount that’s new, but with the song writing as great as ever, a more exciting epic sound, more solos and an increase in electronics, it’s not just another Anaal Nathrakh album, and they’re as essential as they’ve ever been.

Originally written for swirlsofnoise.com

From Man to Ape - 40%

Tengan, October 24th, 2014

It is said that man and chimpanzee shares 96% of its DNA, incredible similarity in genome yet tremendous difference not only in appearance but also in behaviour. Man, advanced, angry and keen on destroying everything in his surroundings. Chimp, slightly less advanced, loveable and keen on dressing up in a tux to amuse even less advanced species on social media. On masterpieces such as ‘Eschaton’, ‘Hell is Empty...’ and ‘In the Constellation...’ Anaal Nathrakh skilfully painted the picture of the inevitable consequences of mankind’s madness, an industrial nightmare in a barren post-apocalyptic world. A world light-years away from that of the friendly chimpanzee. Admittedly, the facade started to crack somewhat on the Brummies’ 2012 output ‘Vanitas’, a cause for concern surely, but not alarming at the time.

A superficial genome sequencing of ‘Desideratum’ will show the familiar features that turned Anaal Nathrakh into a beast fusing insane aggression and brilliant clean sung melodies, a duality conjuring images of destruction, hopelessness and insanity. The tremolo-riffage and catchy haunting melodies are performed in the usual up-tempo style with the occasional slower passages. The grinding drums could as well have been taken from ‘Eschaton’ and V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’s clean singing is better than ever. In theory everything is set for another assault of hyper aggressive grind-influenced black metal. But all is not well, things have changed. Despite playing familiar riffs the guitar sound on ‘Desideratum’ is outright poor. Anaal Nathrakh were never overtly distorted and never used extreme lo-fi productions, but this time a slight loss in distortion and a slightly too clean guitar sound results in a loss of almost all the aggression that turned the band into extreme metal pioneers in the early 2000’s. The duality is basically gone. Not only due to the poor guitar sound, but to some extent also to the sparse use of the characteristic insanely reverbed black metal screams and the focus on melodies rather than brutality in the riff work. To be fair, neither of these changes are completely new to the band. The trend started already on the emotional ‘Passion’ and the melody-driven ‘Vanitas’, but where these albums still rested solidly on the foundations set on previous albums, on ‘Desideratum’ the foundation has cracked and withered.

To add further fuel to the fire the band has put more focus on two aspects, breakdowns and electronic passages, the latter courtesy of a collaboration with electronic sound design project GORE TECH. Neither are new to the sound of the band, but were on previous efforts subordinate to the aggressive riff works. On ‘Desideratum’, much due to the weak guitars, these aspects take the upper hand in the mix and become bearable at best, up-right annoying at most. There are basically two aspects that prevent this album from becoming a total catastrophe. Foremost some of the clean sung choruses, which to be honest are among the strongest the band has ever presented. The tunes lacking said melodies, however, only make me fight the urge to switch to any of the bands other outputs. The second aspect saving ‘Desideratum’ some dignity is ‘Idol’, by far the best song on the album and would have served well as a bonus track on any of the bands mid-2000’s albums. Apart from this, ‘Desideratum’ is hampered by the lack of aggression and hence the loss of the duality that made Anaal Nathrakh cause a stir in the underground. ‘Vanitas’ showed the vulnerability of the band’s sound and balanced on the edge, ‘Desideratum’ is falling helplessly. Without the masterful duality, this becomes boring and uninspiring.

The conclusion is simple. ‘Desideratum’ shares the bulk of its DNA with its predecessors, but instead of a raging lunatic of a man we get a peaceful lovely chimp, not even remotely close to a furious Planet of the Apes-primate. Even when the chimp throws the occasional slab of faeces it is still light years away from the destructive insanity that was once Anaal Nathrakh.


Originally written for www.metalcovenant.com