To their fans, Anaal Nathrakh is an entity of almost blinding beauty. To the rest they paint an unbearable soundscape almost written as the aural accompaniment to the apocalypse. It’s the stuff of nightmares alright so calling their latest album A New Kind of Horror is quite apt.
Mick Kenney and Dave Hunt created Anaal Nathrakh almost 20 years ago and their consistent output is evidenced with this being their tenth album across the three decades. While recent releases such as Vanitas and Desideratum have been wonderfully creative compositions . A New Kind of Horror comes close to eclipsing even those acidic cuts.
Backed by a drum machine whose capabilities are tested to the hilt by the Birmingham duo, Anaal Nathrakh are as uncompromising as they come and at their most merciless are as dead-eyed as a cold-hearted assassin. And yet within their monstrous slabs of screeching venom sit startling highlights that veer towards operatic in their flamboyance and opulence, even more so on this album as Hunt really pushes his vocal chords as far as possible.
A rumbling menacing intro doesn’t really disclose the full devastation that is set to follow. For those who don’t know what Anaal Nathrakh are all about the answer comes quickly in the form of the first full track ‘Obscene as Cancer’. This is Nathrakh at their supercharged head-spinning best but what really takes your breath away is the remarkable power and control of Hunt’s voice. When used cleanly it is a weapon of aural destruction with an incredible range and reach although of course Hunt being Hunt the snarling argumentative barks are there in abundance too.
A New Kind of Horror features 10 tracks each not much longer than three minutes in duration. Within the tight contours of each song Hunt and Kenney cram as many hooks and time changes as they can dream up. It’s exhausting just listening to them so how they pull off these Force 9 gales is an event in itself. On ‘The Reek of Fear’ Hunt lets rip with the kind of piercing cry you can imagine a man omitting if his gonads were being removed by the Barber of Seville. ‘Forward!’ is more disjointed, with Meshuggah like stop-start kicks thrown into the melting pot to keep you hooked, afraid to relinquish your attention for fear of missing a step. No song on the album surpasses the soaring ‘New Bethlehem/Mass Death Futures’ which encapsulates the vibrant energy and essence of Anaal Nathrakh brilliantly. Searing riff patterns, the incessant pounding of percussion with Hunt somehow able to flip from inspired clean vocal work to face-ripping screeches.
At the back of Hunt’s mind when writing the album was the Great War, the unforgiving horror of which is reflected in the tumultuous torment of the aptly named ‘The Apocalypse is About You!’ On ‘Vi Coactus’ the almost unique union of Hunt and Kenney again combines in stunning fashion to conjure yet another gem, albeit one encased at least in part if grime but when the central chug takes over the affect is nothing short of exhilarating.
If you would expect fire and damnation in a song called ‘Mother of Satan’ then in this case you won’t be disappointed although the feral intensity with which Hunt repeatedly barks out ‘Satan’ will sluice any orifice blockages without the need for medical intervention.
You wouldn’t expect Anaal Nathrakh to bow out quietly and there’s little danger of that on the epic ‘Are We Fit for Glory Yet? (The War to End Nothing)’, which is embellished with operatic grandeur to ensure an even bigger finish. Twenty years or so into their career and this demonstrative duo continue to create music that is so far over the edge that you need binoculars to find it. For aficionados of the apocalypse, this is your soundtrack although if you’re lucky you can catch the full force of their tsunami-like live show when they play Damnation Festival in Leeds on Saturday November 3.