Starting in 1999, Birmingham, England's ANAAL NATHRAKH has blazed an inexorable career of sonic destruction, melding black metal with grindcore and industrial elements (among other things) as they see fit (and unfit!) in achieving their quest to produce the most terrifying music imaginable.
Throughout this time, the only thing that was seemingly capable of forestalling the group's focused onslaught - and only barely, at that - was its members' sometime involvement with parallel bands, most notably the sadly missed MISTRESS. But as of late, A.N. vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (a.k.a. Dave Hunt) and guitarist/bassist/programmer Irrumator (Mick Kenney) have allowed themselves few outside distractions, and their primary project's recent releases - namely 2009's "In the Constellation of the Black Widow" and '11's "Passion" - have clearly benefited as a result.
The same is largely true of 2012's "Vanitas", though some fans may beg to differ when faced with the band's renewed attempts to break through songwriting boundaries, even if it means sacrificing an ounce or two of pure, scorched earth Armageddon.
Mind you, opening number "The Blood-Dimmed Tide" gives absolutely no quarter, and the same is true of the electronics-doused "Todos Somos Humanos", but the remainder of "Vanitas" finds ANAAL NATHRAKH seeking new ways to expand their definition of "extreme" beyond strictly loud and vicious songwriting combinations. Hence the unnaturally groove-based riffs powering "To Spite Face", hardcore foundations of "Make Glorious the Entrance of Saturn", supremely tuneful closing solo heard on "In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas", and the malevolent black metal melodies of "Feeding the Beast" - so carbonite-frozen not even their accompanying symphonics can thaw them out.
Then there are V.I.T.R.I.O.L.'s vocals, which traverse a range of styles and emotions so vast arguably only the ever-mutable Attila Csihar regularly takes as many chances in extreme metal arts. Beyond the expected savage shrieks and bowel loosening growls, there are the defiantly clean vocals carrying the chorus - yes, chorus - of "Forging Towards the Sunset", "Of Fire and Fucking Pigs", and others; plus ever more frequent flights into operatic vocals here and there, even going so far as to quote "Il Pagliaccio" on album closer "A Metaphor for the Dead". Above all else, this variety proves that V.I.T.R.I.O.L. puts as much work into his wide-ranging microphone abuse as his partner Irrumator puts into composing and arranging this form- and sanity-challenging songs.
And therein lies the magical balance of the duo's perverse partnership as ANAAL NATHRAKH, and perhaps the motivating force behind their latest quest to expand their sound (that aforementioned definition of what is and is not "extreme"), no matter the risk. Like the cautionary tale of the scorpion and the frog, ANAAL NATHRAKH's music can't help but sting the very vessel it depends on not to drown in the fast-moving river of extreme music. To sting is simply its nature.
Or, as the aptly named "You Can't Save Me, So Stop Fucking Trying" proves, there's no point in trying to dissect such a clear message any further: just listen.
- Eduardo Rivadavia