Review Summary: This is one example of why some listeners will never connect with extreme metal
Fellow staff writer Robin Smith occasionally makes fun of me and says that I like metal bands that would “never hug me” and the like, and while, yes, I’m sure many of these underground, ornery Norwegian types would more easily slit my throat than to share with me some manly love, I think Smith is hitting on a deeper issue. To Smith, metal music cannot connect with the listener as much as the type of music he listens to can: Shout Out Louds
, indie pop, Sufjan Stevens
, and more Shout Out Louds
. It cannot ‘hug’ me, or so he thinks - silly Brit. Now I obviously disagree with him in most instances of my fist-pumping revelry – ‘long live metal!’ and the whole bit, but in the case with the duo of Anaal Nathrakh and their new album, Passion
, I’ll make an exception.
is that Anaal Nathrakh album that you saw coming, but wished would never actually come, the one where the British extreme metal duo would slip up and blotch an otherwise consistent discography of releases. They sound hellacious and as black-grind as ever, hence how I will would never ‘hug’ members Irrumator and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. in person, but as far as connecting to us as listeners, they fail as well this year. The first half of Passion
carries a somewhat progressive layout, which is fine, particularly in the longest track present, “Drug-Fu
cking Abomination”, where instrumentalist Irrumator enters in with crackling guitar distortion and steady, rolling drums, letting loose with fury at the halfway point of the track, carrying V.I.T.R.I.O.L. and his vicious vocal delivery along as they so often do together on their albums.
But on the second half of Passion
, Anaal Nathrakh settle into a monotonous groove of essentially playing their by-now typical fare of extreme metal that has characterized much of the project’s output thus far in their career: blackened grindcore really no different than their more accessible 2006 Eschaton
and onward-to-the-present releases. Where the duo’s work of the past half-decade was consistent and fluid, if hellacious and frantic, this side of Passion
is dull and routine, clashing badly with what meager variances in Anaal Nathrakh’s formula are offered on the somewhat progressive first half – keyboard “sway”-sounds in “Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria” and the devouring of human flesh at the end of “Drug-Fu
cking Abomination”, and the like - for a sloppy-sounding, poorly-put-together album.
Even the melodic side of Passion
, which was a strength of 2009’s In the Constellation of the Black Widow
, is b-grade quality and lazy-sounding. The cleanly sung vocal melodies of the likes of opener “Volenti Non Fit Iniuria”, “Paragon Pariah”, and “Ashes Screaming Silence” are far and away behind Anaal Nathrakh’s more memorable tracks, such as In the Constellation of the Black Widow
’s “More of Fire Than Blood” or Hell is Empty and the Devils Are Here
’s “Shatter the Empyrean”. All told, Anaal Nathrakh have really taken a step backward with Passion
, losing their flow, their direction, and finally, their connect-able-ness with listeners. Albums like this are the very reason why listeners like Smith will likely never 'hug' any metal bands and their albums: it's lazy, off-putting, and in context of Anaal Nathrakh's usual quality work, messy in all the wrong places - no flow, no love, and certainly no passion
to be found.