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10.16.18 The Essential Grind10.15.18 Anaal Nathrakh- An Album Retrospective

Anaal Nathrakh- An Album Retrospective

What better time for a look back through Anaal Nathrakh's discography than just after the release of their most controversial and polarising album? Whatever your thoughts on 'A New Kind of Horror', join me as I take a look back over the band's back catalogue, pick out my favourite and least favourite songs, and explore the journey one of metal's most extreme bands has taken- from their black metal roots, all the way to the post-industrial twangs of today. Albums have been listed according to my personal rating- if you agree, or, more likely, disagree, let me know in the comments. Anyway, on to the list!
1Anaal Nathrakh

2/5. Regarded as the red-headed stepchild of Anaal Nathrakh's music, 2011's 'Passion' was certainly a polarising release. Its critics, myself included, point to its meandering length, lack of original ideas and it being a huge step down from its now-monolithic predecessor. Uninspired songwriting aside, this brief and unwarranted change in direction led to the band stepping up their game, delivering one of their most cohesive and engaging albums to date out of the ashes of this dumpster fire. At least 'Drug-Fucking Abomination' offered some respite before outstaying its welcome, and the introduction of 'Volenti Non Fit Iniuria' was at least by parts entertaining.

Best Song: 'Drug-Fucking Abomination'
2Anaal Nathrakh
A New Kind of Horror

2.5/5. The new Anaal Nathrakh doing what the new Anaal Nathrakh does. A by-the-numbers effort that trots out the now-established post-industrial formula for the band, replete with unnecessary electronics and that awful King Diamond wail. 'A New Kind of Horror's' cardinal sin isn't being incompetent- except in the case of 'The Reek of Fear' and the truly indefensible chorus of 'Mother of Satan'- but rather being predictable. Aside from the questionable experiment of 'Forward!' and the emotional, melodic strains of album highlight 'Vi Coactus', there is little here to differentiate the album from the ones that went before. Hopefully this isn't a sign of the band entering a rut, although, between this album and those immediately preceding it, it may well be that a rut has already been established.

Best Song: 'Vi Coactus'
3Anaal Nathrakh
The Whole of the Law

3/5. I know- I think this album is worse than its predecessor. Among some fans, this would be tantamount to heresy- however, 'The Whole of the Law' is the album I believe saw Anaal Nathrakh take some creative weight off itself and slip into backsliding. True, the songs here have bite- 'Hold Your Children Close...' is entertainingly OTT, and the inspired soloing on 'On Horror, and the Black Shawls' is an example of the band's musicianship at its finest. However, a lot just blend into one another, especially during the album's first half. The omnipresent synths and industrial beats are also hard to shake, and, lest we forget, the King Diamond wail originated on this album, unpleasantly punctuating the otherwise strong track 'Extravaganza!'. Also, 'We Will Fucking Kill You' is a strong contender for Edgiest Song Name of the Year. Yes. I said it.

Best Song: 'Of Horror, and the Black Shawls'
4Anaal Nathrakh

3.5/5 (just). Home to one of my all-time favourite Anaal Nathrakh melodic moments (the stirring final chorus of 'The Joystream'), this album acts as the cornerstone for the band's steady decline. Granted, it had big shoes to fill in the form of its predecessor, but nonetheless wasted some of its potential with metalcore influences and questionable musical direction, particularly on 'Sub Specie Aeterni'. I did, however, like the stomp of 'Unleash' and the pounding refrain of 'Idol'- there was some good to be had here, even if it was partially overshadowed. The rating on this one is probably pumped up by personal taste- if I had to be objective, it could probably settle somewhere around 2.5 to 3. Don't write this one off. It's not as bad as people make it out to be.

Best Song: 'The Joystream'
5Anaal Nathrakh

3.5/5 (close to 4). This one's going to attract a LOT of discontent, but I believe 'Eschaton' to be the weakest of the band's early, raw and visceral releases. It is largely Part II to its forerunner, but without the same sense of aggression and deep-seated unease that that album carried. It has some cracking live staples in its line-up, including the ever-popular 'Between Shit and Piss We Are Born', but for me is lacking the same effervescent hostility that punctuated the two albums preceding it. Plus, with its follow-up, Anaal Nathrakh discovered a side of themselves formerly unknown, opening a whole new chapter for the band's discography. A debatable rating, perhaps- but still a strong, cohesive album.

Best Song: 'Between Shit and Piss We Are Born'
6Anaal Nathrakh
Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Her

4/5. Marking a groove-oriented but no less brutal direction for the band, 'Hell is Empty...' is packed with riffs, technicality and aggression in equal measure. Shedding the black metal trappings of earlier albums almost entirely, and replacing them with elements of death, grind and (whisper it) groove metal, the album is choc-a-block with fiercely entertaining music. Just listen to the massive riff on 'The Final Absolution', or the punishing crush of 'Virus Bomb'- the chorus of fan favourite 'Shatter the Empyrean' also warrants mention. There's an argument to be made that this was too distant from the band's roots, but when the music is this consistent and engaging, what's really to complain about?

Best Song: 'The Final Absolution'
7Anaal Nathrakh
Domine Non Es Dignus

4/5 (almost 4.5). Domine Non Es Dignus, for me, stands as a signpost to the band's future. It wasn't as stripped back, as utterly nihilistic and hostile as its ancestor, but it was an equally misanthropic insight into just how dark music can become. Perhaps the pinnacle of Anaal Nathrakh's black metal-inspired releases, Domine Non Es Dignus is an inspired album, towering over those to come and taking second place only to its father. Well worth a listen, and one of the band's most consistently evil works.

Best Song: Do Not Speak
8Anaal Nathrakh

4.5/5. Ah, now for the true controversy of this list. Vanitas? Above Eschaton, Hell is Empty and Domine Non Es Dignus? Madness, the purists cry! Well, hear me out. Vanitas is, for my money, the perfect synthesis between the raw aggression of the first three albums, and the post-industrial, groove-flecked grind of the last. It is a borderline elegantly sketched, where, by and large (parring the synths on 'Todos Somos Humanos'), the elements included combine to create a visceral sonic malaise. The lyrics, what can be heard of them at least, touch on the philosophy of apathy and self-destruction with bite, and the instruments buzz, gnaw and slice at the ears in a way unseen since a few albums prior. There is a lot to like here, purists be damned, and it should be celebrated for its achievement. A shame then, that it was to mark the band's inexorable decline as the balance of musical styles shifted.

Best Song: Forging Towards the Sunset
9Anaal Nathrakh
The Codex Necro

5/5 (just). The Codex Necro is one of few albums I have found genuinely disturbing. Perhaps it's the cover, with the strangled form of Mick Kenney's brother writhing in the embrace of fleshy, blood-red ropes. Perhaps it's the utter, unforgiving misanthropy and strained production of the music within, the guitars grinding like rusting drills, worming their way into your head. There's something palpably evil about The Codex Necro that the band has only once managed to improve upon- I say this despite its shortcomings, despite its limited release, despite its shoddy level of polish. It is a defiant 'fuck you' to civilisation, bettered only by the final album on this list. Some say never bettered.

Best Song: Pandemonic Hyperblast.
10Anaal Nathrakh
In the Constellation of the Black Widow

5/5. This is a creative pinnacle few bands ever manage to achieve. Ever since Anaal Nathrakh began to refer to its music as 'the soundtrack to the apocalypse', the sceptical elite have waggled their eyebrows and pointed to The Codex Necro as the immovable object the band must overcome. Thankfully, In The Constellation of the Black Widow does not disappoint. A swirling, thoroughly violent trip through the perverse mind of V.I.T.R.I.O.L, this album packs a hell of a punch.

Best Songs: More of Fire than Blood
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