If there were ever to be a band designed not to be fucked with based on their sound alone, Anaal Nathrakh are that band. They even describe themselves as being “the soundtrack for Armageddon”! The British extreme metal duo have created some of the most explosive and ear-shatteringly heavy music since the band’s formation in 1999, and the most recent release, The Whole of the Law, is no exception.
Album covers are great ways of letting listeners know what to expect from an album before actually hearing it. The Whole of the Law has an image of a man having his back broken by another man thrusting his knee into it both of whom are naked. Straight away, you can tell that Anaal Nathrakh is going to be laying down some barbaric-sounding, intensely heavy metal.
They do not disappoint, as after the ominous intro, “The Nameless Dread”, a track that would feel at home in a horror film, Nathrakh explode into action on “Depravity Favours the Bold”. The track is introduced by repeated, operatic chants, before the drums sequenced by Mick Kenney unleash a flurry of blastbeats, quick and heavy enough to knock the wind out of you. Singer Dave Hunt uses the classic black metal technique of adding distortion to his voice in order to sound even less human and more savage to great avail.
Nathrakh’s ability to play a diverse and intricate sound is displayed on the track “Hold Your Children and Pray For Oblivion” as the song features a loud and bouncy electronic drumbeat. This use of something so obviously foreign to a heavy metal band could be laughably terrible in the hands of less skilled musicians, but Nathrakh utilise it expertly. This bizarre addition to an extreme metal album pays off really well as it creates a rushed feeling to the song, as if you are trying to outrun oblivion. Perhaps the best part of this track are the untamed and unshackled screams from Hunt as Kenney shreds the guitar violently to really create a feeling of madness and disaster.
The beauty of Anaal Nathrakh is that they do not try to fit in to a genre, and instead play what they feel would fit the theme of the album. Due to this, the band are able to take risks and use different techniques in order to truly bring their music to life. This is why techniques such as clean singing in the form of wailing voices, showcased especially well in “Extravaganza” but also throughout the album, pay off. Nathrakh have created an all-together better sounding album, much more so than if they had simply followed the tropes of extreme metal and created a generic sound.
The often melodic guitar riffs carefully placed throughout the album offer sanctity in the madness of the guttural screams and deep, fast-paced bass. The presence of a person screaming or struggling, such as in “…So We Can Die Happy”, really brings the album to life and adds personality, making the album more than just music, but an experience.
An album like no other, The Whole of the Law brings a mind-boggling amount of diversity to the extreme metal genre, making it a truly exceptional album.
The Whole of the Law is out now.