Review: Anaal Nathrakh- Endarkenment
I’m not gonna even try to pretend here: I was very, very excited for this release. The question here is whether or not Endarkenment has rewarded my enthusiasm. The answer is a resounding, “Hell, yeah!”
Stylistically, anyone who’s listened to Anaal Nathrakh before is gonna know what to expect here. Endarkenment is a blistering fusion of grindcore and industrial black metal infused with elements of melodic death and, occasionally, power metal. The band isn’t really trying to get out of their wheelhouse on this album, but honestly, it would be kind of unwelcome if they were. When your style is this unique and unmistakable, why would you wanna abandon it?
What is a bit unusual here is how some of the components are used this time around. Most striking is the fact that it is the black metal moments rather than the grindcore portions that possess the most intensity. For example, compare the relatively melodic grindy riffing of the title track to the absolutely unhinged frenzy of “Beyond Words”. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a good choice. Using blackened riffing at the most intense moments allows that rage to be all that much darker.
Another striking feature is how the industrial elements are wielded to develop melody rather than noise in many places on this album. One of the best places to see this is in “Libidinous: A Pig With Cocks in Its Eyes”. Listen to it, and tell me it isn’t one of the most accessible tracks Anaal Nathrakh has ever done. Hell, it’s downright catchy!
On that note, Endarkenment is an oddly digestible record, for Anaal Nathrakh. That isn’t to say that this work is gentle or anything. Saying that this album is a bit easier on the ears is a bit like saying that being beaten with a brick is less harsh than being skinned alive. It’s still goddamned Anaal Nathrakh, after all. It’s just that the interplay of melody and abrasive intensity is perfectly balanced. Somehow, they’ve managed to create something that is both a bile-filled chaos and a remarkably memorable earworm. This beast both thrashes like a wounded centipede and soars like a circling vulture.
Production-wise, Endarkenment goes for a suffocating quality rather than the cavernous approach usually favored by other black metal bands. The emphasis on compression lends an intimate and overwhelming vibe to the music. Surprisingly, this doesn’t detract from the atmosphere in the least. Rather, it gives the album a unique one, like the feeling of being trapped in a box. This smothering sensation makes the intense rage of the music all that much more violent. Conversely, when the songs open up, they burn brighter than they would otherwise.
I’ve harped on about the songcraft and production of Endarkenment long enough. Let’s talk about the duo’s individual performances for a moment. As you may have already surmised, multi- instrumentalist Mick Kenney tears it up here. While nothing he does on the album is particularly technical, nothing is sloppy either. He moves between rabid brutality and moving emotional depth effortlessly. While the Napalm Death influence is obvious in his play style, there is also a surprising amount of dueling leads like those heard from Iron Maiden. If you normally enjoy his style, you’ll like it here.
Dave Hunt is in top form here, also. His clean vocal performance is the most passionate it has ever been, especially when combined with Kenney’s masterful riffing. In fact, I actually found myself nearly moved to tears at the chorus of “Feeding the Death Machine”. When he does the harsher vocals, he expresses a level of pain and rage unmatched by anyone else in the metal world. Unlike most other black or death metal vocalists that try to go for an inhuman quality in their vocals, Hunt’s always retain a human flavor which suits the album’s theme of humanity gleefully plunging headlong into the intellectual abyss.
This brings us to perhaps the most unique aspect of this album: for this outing, Anaal Nathrakh has decided to print many, but not all, of their lyrics. As you may or may not know, the band is somewhat known for refusing to print their lyrics. That they eschewed this tradition shows that they have something to say that they very much want heard clearly.
Overall, the theme of the album seems to be a condemnation of the general human willingness to embrace ignorance and cruelty over reason. For example, the title track directly digs into the minds of those who shun intellectualism. “Feeding the Death Machine” explores how mindless bureaucrats contributed to the horrors of the Holocaust. “Create Art, Thought the World May Suffer” examines how misguided populism can give way to fascism.
Ah, yes. Fascism. This is another topic that is a common thread throughout the album. I can’t say what political persuasion our boys are of, but I can say that they’re definitely not fans of fascist ideology. There is a constant and blatant assault against fascism in Endarkenment that I find wonderfully refreshing. From the red hatted pigs in the “Endarkenment” music video to the dooming of Brazilian fascist, Jair Bolsonaro, to the obscene fate of Rick Santorum in the song, “Thus always, to Tyrants”, and the bitterly sarcastic call to glory on “Create Art, Though the World May Suffer”, fascism and its ability to draw out the worst elements of humanity is relentlessly excoriated on this album.
Make no mistake, though. This doesn’t feel like a politically centric album as much as a condemnation of mankind’s embrace of stupidity and cruelty. Endarkenment is seething with righteous misanthropic rage like that of late-era Mark Twain rather than the goonish displays of say, GG Allen. Anaal Nathrakh seems content to constantly remind the listener that humans are a plague species via tracks like “Punish Them” and “Libidinous: A Pig With Cocks in Its Eyes”. I’ll be honest here: these themes spoke to me and greatly increased my enjoyment of the album.
Overall, Endarkenment is everything I could’ve asked for.
5 out of 5 toilets exploding with a hate for humanity
Buy the album on Bandcamp or Metal Blade.