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A Perfect Album? So Be It. - 100%

MutantClannfear, February 21st, 2011

Every once in a while, you get albums that are, for all intents and purposes, perfect. Not technically flawless - I believe such an album does not exist. But you'll find a certain rare few that will undoubtedly stay in your heart for years, due to the artist's ability to capture my heart and create a beautiful work of art. And despite the cheesy description that would lead you to believe I'm about to name a Radiohead album, you probably know that the album I'll talk about today has a very different mindset - one that focuses on nothing but creating the most suffocating, angry music known to man. Anaal Nathrakh's In the Constellation of the Black Widow is an album that will fall into the ranks of legends of extreme metal. And oddly enough, this album doesn't use any complicated formula to achieve this - its overall makeup is quite simple.

Two-man band Anaal Nathrakh obviously lucked out when it came to this album - ITCOTBW has such a simple game plan that it should result in some terrible cluster of bland riffs. What they have basically done involves taking riffs similar to pop in catchiness and memorability, downtuning them to transform them into metal-worthy songs, adding a huge load of treble, and finishing the vitriolic mess off with vocals that are an absolutely furious blend of grindcore screeches and black metal rasps. As I've said, it sounds like an accident waiting to happen, but it works somehow. Every single element of the band flows extremely fluidly together. Nothing feels out of place, and there's not really much place to improve on any of the songs Anaal Nathrakh have written for this album.

Most of the power and identity this release possesses stems from vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L., who probably has one of the strongest voices I've ever heard. Throughout the album, he lets loose plenty of rage-filled screams that would make Seth Putnam jealous, in addition to the occasional Exhumed-style growl - it's not guttural, but it's pretty goddamn low. Part of the beauty of this release, though, comes from the other half of the vocals - the operatic vocals that often grace Anaal Nathrakh's choruses. They feel like a darker version of power metal vocals, and they succeed in giving the band's music an ominous quality that couldn't be replicated with raspy screams alone. More importantly, it gives the album variety - something I always found black metal to somewhat lack.

The band has composed a seemingly endless amount of catchy, memorable, and ominously melodic riffs for the album. Almost all the riffs are tremolos, and they alternate between creepy, epic, momentous, or a combination of any or all of those three traits. Be it the main riff to "Blood Eagles Carved on the Backs of Innocents" that gives the listener the impression that the universe is on the brink of destruction, the riff throughout "So Be It" that feels like the sliver of hope in an ocean of despair, or the chorus of "Oil Upon the Sores of Lepers" that assures the listener all hope is dead, all the riffs invoke something in the mind. The guitar tone plays just as big a role as the actual riffs, though - the massive, industrial tone Anaal Nathrakh use adds twice as much substance to each riff as there would normally be. The combination of these two elements - great riffs and a crushing guitar tone - ensure this album's place in time. The drums are programmed, but I honestly am unable to tell by ear alone. They sound surprisingly organic, and it's probably the best-sounding drum programming I've ever heard. Even the cymbals - usually the telltale sign that a band's drums aren't real - sound very clean and resonant. As for actual playing style, expect a bunch of blast beats and beats based on the bass drum.

All the songs on this album are great, but there are a few that stand out - "Satanarchrist" is a re-recording from one of Anaal Nathrakh's first albums, and it's probably one of the most ominous tracks. At 0:51, the album utilizes its guitar tone to its full potential as the band uses it to create one of the most emotive tremolo riffs of all time. "Oil Upon the Sores of Lepers" has one of the simplest, pop-like song structures, but most of its riffs focus on going up the scale and playing quick triplets of 16th notes, which gives the album a bit more variety. Finally, "More of Fire Than Blood" has the most beautiful usage of V.I.T.R.I.O.L.'s operatic vocals, and thus the strongest chorus of the whole album.

This is an album beyond great - this is one of the fabled albums that will stand the test of time by all means. Its relatively simple formula is combated by the addictive melodic and creepy riffs, and the end result is a black metal album that is as easy to listen to as a pop album. In the Constellation of the Black Widow is one of the best albums this world will ever see, and I advise anyone who has not listened to it to do so promptly; the longer they wait, the less opportunities they have to experience this masterpiece.