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Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas - 55%

filthgrinding_scum, November 15th, 2012

I've been a Nathrakh fanboy sincenot long after their inception and hold in high esteem everything they did up until Hell Is Empty, and All the Devils Are Here; with that release I found them doing little more than retreading old ground and the whole Nathrakh 'sound' started to become tired, elements of this were already becoming apparent to me on Eschaton the year before, so I stopped listening to their later efforts sticking with their earlier works. I decided to give them another try, seeing as it has been 5 years since I last heard new Nathrakh material I was interested to see how they had developed, and what do I think? Vanitas leaves me wondering how many times you can flog a dead horse.

Vanitas, whilst not unenjoyable for me was incredibly pedestrian, it feels too clean, too generic and just lacking in a certain 'something'. The album displays how little Anaal Nathrakh have come in 8 years, in fact, I would go one step further and say they have regressed if anything. Vanitas is nothing more than Kerrang or Metal Hammer 'front cover band' music, it is no longer challenging, inaccessible or original. Throughout the whole album I kept asking myself 'Where is that hate? Where is that disgust? That disgust that was so apparent on Domine Es Non Dignus, Vanitas feels like watered down Nathrakh, a shadow of its former caustic self; the album is full of Nathrakh riffs but I expect more than that, I expect difference, evolution, not just variations on a sound made famous years before, the riffs aren't even that memorable especially when compared with riffs from songs such as 'Do Not Speak' or 'When the Lion Devours Both Dragon and Child'. It feels like they are just reworking what has come before and the saddest part of this being that I hear them reworking other peoples music instead of just trying to keep in line with their own previous work (which whilst still not great is more admirable than using worn out tropes of other bands). For instance many times through the album there are parts which would not feel out of place on a Killswitch Engage or Himsa album, with the breakdown inspired 'I'm angry at my parents' sound, there is a sense of Dimmu Borgir's influence (I forget which song but one in particular made 'Progenies of the Great Apocalypse' leap to mind), lots of second-rate death metal riffs, the last song on the album sounded like little more to me than Garm era Arcturus worship, and finally the biggest comparison that leapt to mind when listening to this album was its similarity to Generator-era Aborym. This is not to say that it sounds exactly like Generator but the general mood of the album points in that direction, using some stylings on the songs that reflect Generator. Additionally there are occasional programmed dance drums parts on Vanitas that then give way to harsher drums and guitar lines but they are programmed very poorly, there is no depth to them and it is normally only one texture, which makes it pale in comparison to nearly any other industrial black metal band who take the time to craft their electronic sound to a more EBM/Trance/Electronic ideal. This for me is a major falling point for this album mainly because Mick Kenney was involved with Aborym's With No Human Intervention nearly a decade before Vanitas and he has done nothing with Vanitas to show an evolution or change in industrial black metal since that period, to be condescending: He should know better!

The electronic influence on the album is mild and barely felt, which basically means it's superfluous and a small part of me can't help but wonder if it is Mick Kenney trying to ride the wave of the popularity of the Americanised version of dub-step, i.e. Skrillex and Korn's latest efforts which seem to be penetrating the Yank metal market quite pervasively. Call me cynical but Mick likes the limelight, this can be witnessed through so many of his bands which he has tried to grab centre-stage with: Mistress, Fukpig, Exploder (probably the most blatant attempt) and then when these failed Nathrakh became the exploited, as can easily be seen with the shift they made from Eschaton to Hell Is Empty.

Musically the album isn't constructed badly, the guitar and bass work as always is executed very well, the drum programming is nigh-on indistinguishable from human playing, Dave Cunt's vocals are varied and powerful although the album is desperately lacking the soaring clean vocal lines that made Nathrakh such a beauty before, and the production on the album is very clean and crisp. Vanitas just ends up feeling a bit forced, with the vocals lacking the maniacal zeal I have come to expect from Dave Cunt (aka V.I.T.R.I.O.L) (I just don't hear any passion in his sermons on this release) and the production quality lacking the layer of filth that should accompany such 'supposed' hate, they say it's grindcore and black metal; genres not known for crystal clear clarity, I want grime, I want filth, I want nastiness and Vanitas just doesn't deliver for me on that front.

I've felt this way for a while about Nathrakh and this release has cemented that belief in me, they are planning to be nothing more than something more 'extreme' than your average metalcore/deathcore crap, they want to be posterboys with Behemoth and Dimmu Borgir so kids can show their parents how evil and 'alternative' minded they are, whilst Nathrakh turn out more dross every year to sate the masses yet not actually providing any sustenance or substance in their works. What a shame to see a band with such promise fall so far, time to listen to The Codex Necro and remember the 'glory days'.

(Originally written for