Review Summary: Eloi Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?
In Bob Fosse’s 1973 musical film Cabaret, there is a scene during the first night out between the two protagonists (or if you’ve seen the film, antagonists of a sort) Brian Roberts and Sally Bowles (played by Michael York and Liza Minnelli, respectively). They find themselves underneath a train station, and Sally calls Brian over to discuss with him the topic of a “primal scream” (as she refers to it). As the next train passes, Liza Minnelli lets out a wail that is frightening in several regards, one being that it’s perhaps the best example of the only believable and noteworthy performance she’ll ever give, but more importantly how evil it sounded; the anguish in her voice was surreal; in the best way possible, it exemplified both terror and power all at once. This is, I believe, the most fitting way to describe what Anaal Nathrakh
seem to strive for, and most of all on their latest record, Hell Is Empty, and All the Devils Are Here
make evil music. It’s their thing. However, what separates them from a lot of other black metal bands that try to be evil is the fact that they rely not on satanic and heretic lyrics (though they do have those) for their insidiousness, nor an extremely evil looking (funny looking) image; they use their instruments and a keen sense of composition to make an absolutely demonic sound. No ridiculous song names, no outlandish spikes, no laughably awful spoken word passages; just straight-up, to-the-point audible evil. As it is, Devils
is a record of change for the band, and this can be seen in many regards; most of them are for the better, but the album is not without its flaws.
One of Anaal Nathrakh’s
strongest points has always been their instrumental work more precisely, that of Irrumator’s guitarwork. In the past his riffs and lines have sparkled with creativity and style (as far as Black Metal is concerned). On Devils
, he takes his work a step further. What may be seen as accessibility to some and diversity to others, Irrumator slows down quite a bit on Devils
. Where previously almost every Anaal Nathrakh
line and riff was blisteringly fast and face-meltingly brutal, Irrumator reduces the pace on many songs in Devils
. This has many benefits, as older Anaal Nathrakh
outings suffered considerably from repetition. The riffs on Devils
are a mid-tempo black metal affair, and Irrumator utilizes several start-stop riffs and rhythms, to excellent effect. Other songs carry the trademark Anaal Nathrakh
“play so fast your entrails spill out” structure, but not as prominently as before. However, many fans may see this change as a negative aspect, for this variance in speed gives the band’s sound a distinct similarity to a laughable band also from England, Cradle of Filth
. However, what fans should keep in mind is, Cradle of Filth
suck; Anaal Nathrakh
does not. Regardless, the slower tempos will invariably bring negative complaints of some kind, even though the band has changed for the better.
In addition to the differentiation of guitar velocity, Irrumator has added even more solos than ever. What’s different about Irrumator’s solos from other bands, however, is that his fit the music he plays in perfectly. There’s no unnecessary wankery, no overbearing and exhausting shred; just short, spastic, perfectly fitting solos. Bands like Trivium
should take a soloing lesson from Irrumator, but that would imply that any of those kinds of bands had any talent at all. The riffs on here do one other notable thing differently, in that Irrumator has begun to utilize a slightly more “chug” tone than previously. Not to an extent where it begins to detract from the music, but it’s still there, and people will inevitably complain about it. That aside, Devils
has your standard, somewhat produced black metal guitar tone. It’s in the layering and the atmosphere that it shines. As is metal custom, the bass is completely inaudible, though it is safe to assume that it follows the guitar tracks since Irrumator writes all the bass parts as well.
Irrumator’s drum programming is of additional distinctive note, as well. I have no trouble saying that he is the most talented drum programmer in the metal business today. His work shows a perfect grasp of restraint and brutality all at once. Most of all, he has a knack for creating drum lines and rhythms on a machine that sound human. There is no hilarious ultra-beats like those on Mirrorthrone
or Agoraphobic Nosebleed
(although, in the latter’s case, it is acceptable), just solid double-bass work and the occasional blast beat utilization. If Vladimir Cochet and Irrumator made a project, it might be one of the best things to ever happen to metal.
is an album with many differences as compared to their previous outings, and this is no more evident than in the vocal department. Where previously limited to your standard high pitched black metal wail and the occasional clean vocal section, Devils
focuses more than ever on vocal prowess. The first difference noticeable is a low pitched scream that VITRIOL uses. Before, he had only done an occasional low, atonal electronic spoken word gurgle-like technique; with Devils
, we see a side of him not yet revealed. He utilizes a very low, extremely insidious sounding scream. There is a small amount of electronic modification added to it (to make it sound more evil, and it works), but it’s not too evident. Keep in mind that it’s not a growl (a la Chris Barnes’ work), just a very deep scream; imagine if Tay Zonday (of Chocolate Rain fame) got shot in the foot and he let out a wail; it sounds akin to that, only even more evil (and awesome).
There are also changes to his clean vocals. Where previously they would be scattered around the record, they are now in almost every song. In addition, their tone has gone through a drastic overhaul; VITRIOL’s voice sounds more relaxed and natural now. He is much more easily understood, as his voice does not sound so strained as before. His cleans are in almost every chorus now, giving a slight operatic feel to the music (not a lot). Unmistakably, however, his cleans are extremely demonic sounds. He has a tendency to layer his low scream just under his clean vocals; enough so that if you listen for it, you can hear, but not in an overbearing manner. This adds a sinister edge to the choruses; while catchy and memorable, they are undeniably malevolent in nature.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Anaal Nathrakh’s
sound, however, is their use of screaming. As I mentioned previously, this album encapsulates the concept of Liza Minnelli’s “Primal Scream”, and most especially in the manner in which they use screams. Scattered across the album are a variety of screams that have no meaning; they’re just screams. A lesser band might try this and fail miserably , but Anaal Nathrakh
are no such lesser band. Their placement and execution of this unique ambient effect is flawless; there is never screaming where there shouldn’t be, and the tone is never obnoxious. I believe the band has also created the first instrumental track with vocals, in the sense that there’s screaming, but no words.
Anaal Nathrakh’s Hell Is Empty, and All the Devils Are Here
may not be the most brutal record ever, and their sound is a lot less crazy than previously, but what they have created here is quite possibly the most wicked sounding record ever made.