Review Summary: Another step into the frenzied apocalyptic world of Anaal Nathrakh; another reason for you to love/hate the band even more.
It's almost become second nature for Anaal Nathrakh to write album after album based on their own brand of extreme metal. The enigmatic brummie duo have never seemed far removed or indeed hesitant to follow on from the evolution of the sound they have meticulously crafted over the years, and it seems with every successive record the small yet subtle changes have been seamless rather than unhinged or seemingly frenzied. Sure, some of Anaal Nathrakh's records have proven to be more forgettable than others, but the real method in the band's madness has always related to how confident they are when performing and writing new material. Be that as it may, depending on your perception of how good
Anaal Nathrakh are, a band being so confident in their delivery tends to be as much of a positive boon as it does a downright annoyance.
I'll get to the point: Despite its obvious aspirations, latest album The Whole of the Law
(a title which to me, seems awkwardly worded) will either make you hate the band more, or love them deeper. There's no midway meeting here: the latest effort will prove to be more divisive than any other record in the band's back catalogue. That said, Anaal Nathrakh have always struck me as a band who love to dig the nail in a little deeper whilst staying both as consistent and relevant as possible. So musically, The Whole of the Law
builds on this manic confidence in the band's ability to mess about with their own particular twist of industrial, symphonic-tinged extreme metal and at times, you'll be utterly frustrated as to why it is simply never perfected: far from it, in fact. There are several songs here strongly reminiscent of the band's older material ("Hold Your Children...", "...So We Can Die Happy", "On Being the Slave"), and then again others which seem to transcend the cleaner, more harmonic variety of albums such as Passion
. The delivery on the shorter, snappier songs is certainly as straightforward as you would (dis)like it to be. Guitars sweep and slice through the usually powerful, in-your-face production, and V.I.T.R.I.O.L's menacing spittle is as devilishly wide-eyed as ever. Yet it's also an example of the band going through the motions-and this, in all honesty, is what proves to be both the album's core advantage as well as its disadvantage. Naturally it's been heard before plenty of times: "Hold You Children Close..." proving to be a fitting prime example of Anaal Nathrakh at their most apocalyptic-sounding, and perhaps this is why the song was chosen to be one of the leading promotional cuts in anticipation of the record's release. It is certainly delivered however with a considerably large mental strength, leading whoever listens to believe that the band don't care about failing. They know what they're doing, and they do it well.
There's also ample experimentation here, but in contrast to the past Anaal Nathrakh releases, this is a lot more obvious and at several times annoying than you would expect. Most of the experimentation revolves around industrial and symphonic elements, but at times it's almost like listening to Septic Flesh's current incarnation rather than, say, Pig Destroyer's latter-day material. This is where it seems to go a bit downhill. Take "We Will ***ing Kill You", a song title with more edges than a jagged dodecahedron. From the get-go there's an utterly confident delivery which twists and turns from one symphonic blast of pomp to the next, all the while emphasising how "extreme" Anaal Nathrakh can get without going beyond the level of ridiculous self-indulgence. It's a worthwhile song to ponder certainly, that is if you have a passing interest for the band's sonic experimental work. For everybody else, it's a palm on the face and an utterance of the words "too much", as the song's bombastic menace just doesn't stop until either your ears bleed, or when the running time has stopped. There's so much here that you can almost forget there's an actual rhythm section, for all V.I.T.R.I.O.L's eccentric wailing and the headache-inducing industrial bounce throughout. Then there's "Extravaganza!", which does the job right, but is effectively relying on the same musical formula. Here, and I don't quite know what it is, everything seems to fit. The symphonic edge is still bombastic, the guitars are still shrouded by industrial force, the vocals still have more layers than an onion. Perhaps it's because of the placement in the track-listing-"Extravaganza!" arrives towards the latter third of the record, whereas "We Will ***ing Kill You" is merely the third song proper in an 11-song record. Perhaps it's because by the time "Extravaganza!" has arrived, the listener is either salivating to hear more of the same, or wanting a more versatile Anaal Nathrakh rather than the virtual carbon copy of past relics. Whatever it is, it is THE album highlight, but of course that's all down to personal preference.
The Whole of the Law
rubs your face in the fact that Anaal Nathrakh are moving on with relentless energy, but also not hesitating to remind you of how they got so much recognition in the world of extreme metal in the first place. Yes, the band is annoying to many, but Anaal Nathrakh also have their solidified fan-base, and for the latter, this album is great. For the former, it's another reason to throw caution to the wind and simply ignore it after a couple of listens. However, at the end of the day, it's still a solid example that Anaal Nathrakh are still in a field of their own, albeit one that is not without its patchy areas.