Anaal Nathrakh

I don’t think there’s any questioning Anaal Nathrakh‘s place in the pantheons of metal. Their debut, The Codex Necro, now 10 years old, remains one of the most frightening and apocalyptic releases ever recorded, and while the decade since has seen the band hone and polish their grinding black metal tones into a different sounding beast, they remain one of the most consistent and reliable acts out there. From Eschaton (my personal favorite) through last year’s Passion, the band has delivered a sound and intensity that few can match, even if things have progressed and been cleaned up with the clean choruses and such.

However, one could also argue that from Domine Non Es Dignus through Passion, the formula has changed little, and the band’s sound is a little too familiar and stagnant as some found with Hell is Empty and All the Devils Are Here and In the Constellation of the Black Widow. Still, the band sticks at it and keeps churning out their brand of apocalyptic metal and on their newest release, Vanitas, the band has seemingly turned a corner and truly found a balance that melds their early, caustic hues with their cleaner, newer output – and the end result is a truly devastating album.

First off, the production on Vanitas is the heaviest and gnarliest the band has had since the debut.  It’s still crisp and clean like their more recent releases, but the bottom end and guitar tone are just bowel-prolapsing. Throw in just a few more robotic, industrial beats and cyber moments and it’s simply a merciless swath of sonic destruction. Secondly, there are noticeably fewer ‘catchy’ choruses and clean croons here. There are a few of the trademark Ihsahn-y croons on “Forging Towards the Sunset,” “In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas” and “To Spite the Face,”  but they aren’t nearly as prevalent or repetitive as on prior albums. It appears the band is leaning more towards a vitriolic vocal performance that better fits the music, and VITRIOL/Dave Hunt hasn’t been this unhinged and ferocious since The Codex Necro.

Starting with the short, grinding opening blast of “The Blood Dimmed Tide,” Vanitas is just off-the-chain intense from start to finish. Personal favorite “Todos Somos Humanos” seethes with an utterly menacing opening main groove and proceeds to sonically curb-stomp you with a robotic boot until your face is a bloody pulp. The album’s catchiest track, “You Cant Save Me, so Stop Fucking Trying,” is a anthemic shiv to the stomach yet it’s as close to a respite as this album gets, with a chorus that’s bound to be a live favorite (assuming the mosh pit isn’t nuclear dust and debris). “Make Glorious the Embrace of Saturn” is a barely 3-minute explosion of ridiculously violent cyber punk/grind with a melody line to die for, while “Feeding the Beast” delivers a slow churn and deliberate pace that is tangibly menacing and foreboding. The blistering first single “Of Fire and Fucking Pigs” is as perfect of a melding of melody and viciousness as you’ll ever hear recorded before the closer “A Metaphor for the Dead” ends the album with a somber but fitting mood that drips with a fierce sense of restraint and utterly pummeling groove.

Vanitas is easily the band’s best and most violent effort since Eschaton, both production and song-wise. There are quite literally times during the album where I shuddered with a tangible “whoa,” as it melds that album’s seething, regal neo-grind with the debut’s harsh, caustic atmosphere – resulting in paint-peeling, ear shredding elegance and savagery that few, if any, bands can match.

The ‘thrakh is back (I know they never went away, but I had to squeeze that into the review somewhere).

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 8th, 2012


  1. Commented by: TMSNGE

    Personally, i think the only good stuff they have done since the “When Fire…” EP is the melodic choruses. The noisiest parts have just become dull.
    I love The Codex Necro, mostly because there aint really many riffs on the album, it’s mostly just a wall of filthy, grimy, evil guitar cacophony.

    Having said that, i WILL buy this and give it every chance to prove it’s not as bad as the last album.

  2. Commented by: thisblacksession

    I’m apparently in the minority, but I enjoyed “Passion”. This, however, blows it away. Dave Hunt might be the most versatile vocalist around and he seems to have really balanced everything nicely. Can’t stop listening to it.

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