Review Summary: Hell's House Band Part I - All Too Fucking Human
Yes, I recognize that the term "Hell's house band" may be a bit goofy, but there is really no other accurate way to describe the complete and utter musical annihilation brought forth by the U.K.'s Anaal Nathrakh, aside from perhaps "the soundtrack to Armageddon". Ever since making themselves known at the turn of the century, the duo of Mick Kenney and Benediction growler Dave Hunt have made themselves known as the reigning kings of chaos in extreme metal. In the overall grand scheme of black metal, the band may not be considered as "true" as some others due to their genre mixing, especially since their later records tend to incorporate some metalcore elements due to Irrumator's love of the style, but I believe a seasoned extreme metal listener would take the psychopathy of Anaal Nathrakh over any homebrew basement band any moment of the millennium. The Codex Necro
, their first full length release, embodies that deranged spirit just as much as any later record of theirs, while still being both primitive in the grander spectrum of the band's discography and unique in its own way by being perhaps the most deranged ambient black metal record possible.
Now before you get all shouty at me for calling The Codex Necro
an ambient black metal album, I shall explain my reasoning for such a descriptive term. When one thinks of ambient black metal, first thoughts usually jump to the earlier works of Burzum (that is to say Varg's 90s offerings such as Hvis lyset tar oss
) or a modern group such as Walknut with their fantastic Graveforests and Their Shadows
. Those albums feature a brand of black metal done in somewhat of a droning style, with many flowing chords and longer song lengths, thus drawing out the atmosphere the records produce. In the case of The Codex Necro
, imagine that this environmental aura was not a deep forest or an icy mountaintop devoid of all life, but the bowels of the Underworld itself. Imagine yourself inside of a dirty, nearly lightless torture dungeon, where you are chained to the wall and screaming with every fiber of your being for someone to come and rescue you. Then a large hooded man walks into the room and begins subjecting you to brutal, unspeakable acts of dereliction and defamation. That is the atmosphere Anaal Nathrakh have created with this record. As opposed to their later albums which feel more as if the world is coming to an absolute end all around you, their debut effort feels a bit more personal, where the destruction is happening to only one person and not every person. The cover art gets this feeling across perfectly, featuring a poor soul's final moments from suffocation, as well as through various samples placed throughout the record of people screaming in agony and despair. Musically, in keeping with the ambient feel and tone, the record is considerably slower tempo wise than what the band would later create. While every song is still pretty damn fast, the only consistently complete barnstormers here would be "Pandemonic Hyperblast", "The Technogoat", "Human, All Too ***ing Human", and the record's title track, all four displaying the blisteringly fast speeds that the band would later make a mainstay of their music. The band's experimental nature is also shown at times here, such as the techno-styled drum break in "Paradigm Shift - Annihilation". The style mixing of the band's later works is considerably less noticeable here; while there are elements of death metal and grindcore sprinkled about the record's 46 minutes (the former style best displayed through the beginning of "Human, All Too ***ing Human), The Codex Necro
is black metal through and through.
When it comes to performances, the talents of both Irrumator and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. are on full display and they do not back down for a second. Taking the instrumental helm for every aspect of the actual music, Irrumator is as tight as one possibly can be, performing the guitars, bass, and drums with flawless precision and spot on accuracy. V.I.T.R.I.O.L.'s shrieking, howling, and downright ***ing scary vocals also do not relent for even a picosecond. His out of this dimension screaming perfectly replicates the sounds of the previously mentioned Hell-dwelling torture chamber, and will do no less than draw the listener into this magnificently screwed up world the band has created. In addition to performing every instrument, Irrumator also took it upon himself to perform the production, mixing, and mastering duties for The Codex Necro
, and the sound he has crafted for this record is nothing short of amazing. It's loud, yes, but it fits the chaotic style of the music. It's a bit muddy, but that also perfectly compliments the music's filthiness. Everything is audible and discernible in the mix, making for an intense wall of sound that rivals any Devin Townsend record. Lyrically there is nothing that really can be said, as the band chose not to publish Dave Hunt's words. I can only imagine they are as completely insane as the music, and judging from the few lyrics of Anaal Nathrakh's that have managed to see the light of day, they probably are. At least the band has yet to pull a Gorgoroth and try to sue those that figure out the lyrics.
In the grand spectrum of extreme metal, from the early forefathers of Venom, Celtic Frost, Possessed, and Slayer, to the middle era masterpieces from bands like Death, Morbid Angel, Mayhem, and Emperor, to the current crop of carnivorous creators such as Lago, Sulpher Aeon, Aborted, and Behemoth, no one can match the intensity, insanity, and sheer terrifying nature of Anaal Nathrakh. The Codex Necro
, while not encompassing the all around apocalyptic nature of the band's future works, is a practically flawless musical display of total carnage on the human level, and even though their later works would improve on the formula of "beat the listener's face in with a disease-infected hammer until half their skull has been liquified", The Codex Necro
still remains nearly a decade-and-a-half later a seminal work in not just black metal, but in extreme metal as a whole. It may not be as refined or polished as a record like Hell is Empty...
, but for what it is, The Codex Necro
is a perfect extreme metal album.