Anaal Nathrakh is everything the main bulk of today’s extreme and experimental bands can never be. Not only are they superbly short on manpower, they redefine what it means to be ‘extreme’ or ‘experimental’.
“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”
-- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900), "On Reading and Writing"
I have always been skeptical of music critics who heap overwhelmingly kind words such as "most talented band" or "best band of the decade" on any kind of band. I don’t deny that there are talented bands, but regardless of whether the band in question is Anthrax or Absu, I just don’t think that musical perfection is actually practically possible. I mean, let’s just put the very big point of subjectivity aside for now, and even then how often do you hear your favourite band or genre churn out that rare gem of an artist or record that will warrant a perfect score from you? Throw in individual musical preferences (thanks to personal subjectivity) and it is really hard to tell for sure which band is really a "talented band" or "best band of the decade" or not.
For me, at least, I have finally found another such band -- or rather, duo -- within the extreme metal sub-genre that deserves such overwhelmingly kind words (Deathspell Omega being another such band on my worship list). This ferociously intense British pair known as Anaal Nathrakh is everything the main bulk of today’s extreme and experimental bands can never be. Not only are they superbly short on manpower, they redefine what it means to be "extreme" or "experimental" not by doing the opposite of what those terms imply, but by ironically doing exactly what the two terms imply, albeit up a notch further than many of their peers today. What do I mean by that? Well, they basically did the most extreme thing ever by daring to combine FOUR different metal sub-genres (Black, Death, Grind, and Industrial Metal) into a twisted sonic aberration that mercilessly launches seething dark aural sledgehammer blows to your face until every last shred of flesh is pounded into oblivion. They are also the Frankenstein of fast-paced extreme metal at the moment, an experiment delightfully gone wrong that gleefully merges the dark and repulsive aura of black and death metal with the chaotic direction of industrial noise and the simplicity of grindcore tunes, a feat never before seen or attempted until their 2004 album, Domine Non Es Dignus, exploded onto the scene through the French metal label, Season of Mist.
Passion is the duo’s sixth full-length record, and yet another impressive audio grimoire to add to their grim and misanthropic repertoire. While still featuring signature Anaal Nathrakh traits like an overtly explicit track title called "Drug-Fucking Abomination" and arpeggiotic melodies (in the Mayhem-pioneered guitar buzzsaw tone) that perpetually dwell in the backdrop, there is a pretty big change in the form of V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (aka Dave Hunt) mellowing down a little and doing more clean singing for a change. Wait, don’t go all "Oh! I dig As I Lay Dying, so this might just be the sign for me to start listening to Anaal Nathrakh!" yet. It is not that kind of clean singing. It sounds like a voice in speaking mode, but with lots of melismatic treatment. This is actually a pretty welcome change, but if not for the fact that the overall instrumentals have gotten more mellow and melodic in the refined kind of way as well, Passion fails to surpass the raw flakkin’ brilliance of 2009’s In the Constellation of the Black Widow. Still, sacrificing a little bit of their raw intensity in exchange for some mellowness could be part of yet another one of their experiments with a different sound, and that is one of the biggest plus points about Anaal Nathrakh after all. Recommended tracks to look out for are "Le Diabolique Est L'ami Du Simple", "Paragon Pariah" and "Who Thinks of the Executioner", and another thing of interest to keep an ear out for is V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’s expanded range of harsh vocals, which has upped its inhumanity with its new inclusion of hysterically hoarse screams, as can be heard in the second-half of the track, "Tod Huetet Uebel".
Did you know that “Anaal Nathrakh” supposedly means “serpent’s breath”? What an apt name for such a dark, twisted, cruel, venomous and putrescent act indeed.