Anaal Nathrakh
Passion

The differences between the last four records from the UK’s preeminent black metal duo, Anaal Nathrakh, have been subtle and nuanced; so much so that it can really make a reviewer feel like a complete nitpicker. This is where being a fan of the band’s abrasive-yet-dynamic black metal shredding, and perceiving their subtle shifts under a microscope, can be equally satisfying as it is arduous. And their eighth studio album, Passion, is no exception.

First things first, if you’re a fan of anything this band has done in the last four albums, then get on board with this record ASAP. The speed/intensity is there as well as subtle experimentation – bordering on industrial tinges. Melodic singing that highlights otherwise harsh vocal exorcisms – check, black metal riffs that pack in the aggression first then provide you will-o’-the-wisp melodies – double check. And of course, incredibly tight production.

Speaking of, the production is actually one of the main shifts in sound for the ‘Rakh this time around. Here’s where this review might catch some flack, but if honesty is appreciated then we gotta call it like we see it, and that is quite simply that the production is almost a little too clean, too polished and, well… perfect. Let me qualify that a bit: when In The Constellation Of The Black Widow came out in ’09 it was in my ‘Top Ten’ of that year, and pretty high up on that list I might add. Being that Passion is the follow-up to that record, one of the main differences is that the buzzing edges have been dulled, peaks and valleys have been evened out a bit, and this has left the sound feeling as a bit more processed and not so much the ‘live and explosive’ sound that they’ve carefully managed to blend with their excellent level of precision. The equation needs to be balanced between those two, and this time it has lost some vibrance (again, just talking about production here, remember, just nitpicking) by being a bit more rigid.

Phew! Now that the major gripe is out of the way, let me say that listeners can expect a great experience with this album that stylistically stays in alignment with their previous efforts. “Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria” is certainly one of the more savage songs the band has penned and also contains non-stop amazing riffs one right after the other for the short 1 minute and 42 seconds of play time, making it one of the highest ‘no bullshit shredding to song length’ ratios the band has logged. I must also comment on “Tod Huetet Uebel” – a song that will most likely be known as, “that song with the crazy-ass vocals”. Honestly, when I first heard this track, I almost said outloud “WTF is going on?!” It sounded like a suicidal black metal vocalist getting his balls stepped on – turns out these guest vocals are from Rainer Landfermann of Bethlehem. But then, something happened: I grew to love it. It’s just so over the top, so unusual, and half of lines are recorded with a glitchy, cut-and-pasted quality that it feels like lyrics are literally being thrown at you from different directions. What can I say, I was won over.

Main vocalist Dave “V.I.T.R.I.O.L.” Hunt handles his position with aplomb as always (Re: hair-raisingly pissed off), but there’s something missing. There’s at least one track where I’m left wanting to hear his melodic vocals combine with the guitar to truly take flight in unison, and it’s not really happening on this album. Previous records had this – Domine Non Es Dignus had “Do Not Speak”, Eschaton had “Between Shit And Piss We are Born” (and also, “When The Lion Devours Both Dragon And Child”), Hell Is Empty, And All The Devils Are Here had “The Final Absolution”, In The Constellation Of The Black Widow had “More Of Fire Than Blood”. For some reason Passion doesn’t have that flagship of a song to be found on this record (“Paragon Pariah” maybe gets close, MAYBE).

Perhaps the weight distribution has shifted a bit more from the vocals to Mick Kenney’s riffs, who seriously needs to start getting more props for his riffs, on this album. The man is never experiencing a shortage of killer riffs that put many of their Scandinavian brethren to shame. The blend of aggression, eerie melodies and experimentation within the black metal framework is always exciting to hear at all points on this album. From the slower, but excellent tone-setter of an intro on “Violenti Non Fit Iniuria” and follow-up “Drug Fucking Abomination” to the black glass tornado of speed in the aforementioned “Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria” and also “Le Diabolique Est L’Ami Du Simple” there is a good cross section of speed and feeling represented.

Rather than succinctly say that, “this album should appeal to Anaal Nathrakh fans and likely bring some new ones into the fold” (ahem, lazy/generic reviewing), it really needs to be contrasted against their previous works to see how it stacks up in the band’s own context. As with a band like Amon Amarth, who have many albums and an established sound, you don’t compare the band to their contemporaries or their particular style, the band’s real competition is with themselves. So while I may seem critical, and maybe reach for In The Constellation… or Eschaton only SLIGHTLY before throwing Passion on to kick my ass, it must be said that this is a GREAT album from a band that has been consistently working hard to define a niche and sound which only they occupy.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Stacy Buchanan
May 13th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    you like Eschaton more than this? wow.

    um, I agree on the production bit, though. I just like their productions more when it sounds like battery-acid drenched rusty nails in the eyes of the best that ends the world. not that the record is in any way bad, it actually has some of their best songwriting to date. I just wish the production was uglier.


  2. Commented by: Gabaghoul

    Love this album – they brought back the epic seething melody that made Domine so awe-inspiring, and which I was missing from the last few. Production is definitely a far cry from Codex but it doesn’t bother me; I’m all about songwriting first, and they delivered here. Great writeup!


  3. Commented by: Andy Synn

    I really like the added focus on artificial/industrial elements, as you said, the “glitchy” parts and big, mechanical riffs.

    I also agree that “Tod Huetet Uebel” grew on me too. Massive shcok when I first heard it, but it’s so unhinged it actually becomes very compelling.

    Still, I think “Paragon…” through “Ashes…” are the best songs.


  4. Commented by: shaden

    eschaton is their best by far,followed very closely by the first 2.they should up up the industrial abit more. now wheres the new axis of perdition review to accompany this one?


  5. Commented by: Dimaension X

    How does this compare to the new album by that other British Industial Black Metal duo, Axis of Perdition? I read that their new one is similar in cleaning up their production so everything is clearer, but in turn, that kind of defeats the atmosphere of what we expect from these two bands – a dirty grimy filthy dip into a pool of evil muck.

    Then again, a decent clean production lets the instruments shine. Nothing like “bad” production to ruin an otherwise good bunch of songs, either.


  6. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    oddly enough, this new Axis record is all the better for cleaner production. it really invites you into something horrendous. the vocal delivery is absolutely unhinged.


  7. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Yep, great album!!!


  8. Commented by: Gaia

    Great write up. Completely agree with production woes and the lack of that flagship track. Overall it is a very cool record, but I would probably which for Constellation… more than Passion.


  9. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Rainer’s always been one of my favorite black metal vocalists. Rivalled in the deranged department only by Arioch/Mortuus and Nattramn (V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’s more unbridled aggression than insanity). Always liked the ‘Thrakh and his presence is just icing on the cake. I’m buying this.


  10. Commented by: Brandon Duncan

    This is probably one of the most frightening things I’ve ever heard.


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