Distributor/label: Metal Blade Records
Released: 2nd October 2020
Buy Album: https://anaalnathrakh.bandcamp.com/album/endarkenment
Band Website: https://www.facebook.com/Anaalnathrakhofficial
Mick Kenney – multi-instrumentalist
Dave Hunt – vocals
02. Thus, Always, to Tyrants
03. The Age of Starlight Ends
04. Libidinous (A Pig with Cocks in Its Eyes)
05. Beyond Words
06. Feeding the Death Machine
07. Create Art, Though the World May Perish
09. Punish Them
Formed in 1999, extreme metal outfit Anaal Nathrakh hail from Birmingham, England, and have released ten studio albums, one EP, and one compilation album over the last two decades. They have been praised universally for creating a violent cocktail of grindcore, black metal, death metal, industrial, and other genres.
The band’s name is Irish for “snake’s breath” (anál nathrach,) which goes a long way to explain the venomous, spitting music featured on Anaal Nathrakh’s eleventh studio effort Endarkenment. Mike Kenney and Dave Hunt seem to operate on a mission statement of “making music with a sense that all you can do is hang on,” and this very much embodies the tumultuous, world-ending racket thrown up by Endarkenment, with its furious storms of blast beat-driven violence, frenzied riffing, and stadium-sized choruses that change the direction of tracks so quickly you’ll be in the hospital for whiplash before the album has finished.
On the process of writing and recording the album, vocalist Hunt has this to say: “Personally, I feel more cynical, more bitter, with a greater sense that the world is fucked, and is continually re-fucked by people who have no idea what they are doing. Musically, I think we’re more mature – not less frenetic, but better able to channel our energies where they’ll be most effective. That’s an ongoing process, you never finish growing into what you’re doing and being better able to push at the edges of what you can do. But we aren’t interested in evolving what we do, only how we do it. We remain unlike the vast majority of other bands in our sound, and we’re proud of what we do.”
From the blistering opening riff of the title track to the closing bars of ‘Requiem,’ Endarkenment is relentless in its hideous delivery of extreme metal; not stopping for breath and not caring if you’re still there holding on by the end or not. Drums pulverize at every breakneck turn, guitars eviscerate in brutally deprived fashion with razor-sharp riffs, and the take-no-prisoners vocals cut through the mix with a blood-curdling shriek before switching to a baritone type vocal for certain choruses. If you love any kind of extreme metal band, you will absolutely find something to love here. Don’t let my low score deter you if you enjoy Anaal Nathrakh, but I’ll explain more in a bit.
‘Feeding the Death Machine’ is a phenomenal track, with chugging guitars, a monumental chorus, and inspiration drawn from a horrific source. The track was penned on the day of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, after Hunt heard an interview with a prisoner who survived simply because she could play the cello. He states: “Drawing on Jens Bjørneboe’s devastating technique of horrifying the reader precisely by mentioning incomprehensibly horrific events in an apparent matter of fact style and without touching upon the actual horror, this text concentrates on the role of perhaps the most contemptible figure of all – the craven, self-excusing bureaucrat.” This one is probably my favourite track on the album, for that very reason.
‘Singularity’ not only looks at the concept of the singularity itself – the anticipated point at which artificial intelligence will overtake human intelligence – but its relationship to human decadence and its destructive nature. Hunt screams with a burning rage the line “A pointless society necessarily consumes itself, lacking an exterior goal, circularity assumes its place!” and for a while after, it had me pondering about where artificial intelligence will be in the next 10-20 years. It’s a mountainous track that grabs you by the throat, disembowels you from top to bottom, and leaves you hanging there. Brutal stuff.
However, this is where my issues with the album start to seep in. Maybe I’m uninitiated into the world of extreme metal, maybe the genre as a whole or specifically Anaal Nathrakh just isn’t for me, but the tracks seem to blend into one and it’s hard to differentiate individual songs. Between the mostly indecipherable vocals, breakneck drumming, and the unabated guitar lines of tracks like ‘Thus, Always, to Tyrants’ and ‘Libidinous (A Pig with Cocks in Its Eyes),’ there’s not too much to really sink my teeth into. Both Mike Kenney and Dave Hunt are incredible at what they do, it’s just a shame that what they do isn’t for me.
Over the years, my taste has been getting heavier. Most recently, I’ve discovered the likes of Amon Amarth, Opeth, and Arch Enemy, but I’ve still got a long way to go before Anaal Nathrakh force their way into regular rotation in my music library. I don’t hate Endarkenment at all, and I don’t think it’s bad by any means, but I’m unlikely to replay the record or delve deeper into the band’s back catalogue just because it’s not my thing. I wish I could give this a higher score, but my own personal feelings on the album are preventing me from doing so. If you like the band, all power to you, and you’ll absolutely love this album. Nothing on the record will deter existing fans from enjoying it, but sadly, I had a really tough time listening through Endarkenment.