When I submitted last week’s Godflesh review for their awesome long-awaited comeback album, A World Lit Only By Fire, I had no idea that it would just be part one of a two-part special on British Two-Piece Bands Who Want To Watch The World Burn (or the BTPBWWTWTWB Movement, for short), and both, while effective, utilize radically different approaches to signal the end of the world as we know it. You see, while Godflesh trudged like an industrialized, streetcleaning behemoth on their newest, on Desideratum, fellow Birmingham industrialists Anaal Nathrakh prefer to take a quicker, colder method, calling forth demons from the pits of Hell, raining death and bodily fluids from the sky while dancing like Alessa’s dark soul in the infamous Christabella barbed wire scene near the end of Silent Hill amid all the chaos and bloodshed. Interested yet? Read on.
Lead-off instrumental “Acheronta Movebimus” is about as good a set-up for an album as it gets. Mick “Irrumator” Kenney’s trademark tremolo melodies are abundant, leading the charge among driving programmed drums, almost-but-not-quite djent guitars and bass, and samples calling for the horde to rain fire upon us all. And this song is the only bit of respite found, as from the aptly titled “Unleash” forward, it’s sheer blasting, grinding, barely-contained blackened lunacy. In other words, this is the Anaal Nathrakh we all know, love, fear, and above all, respect.
And speaking of lunacy, Dave “V.I.T.R.I.O.L.” Hunt has outdone himself yet again, further cementing his reputation as one of the best extreme vocalists ever. I wonder how he can perform some of the most blood-curdling, eye-bulging, vein-bursting shrieks ever put to record without his larynx looking like a bowl of soggy shredded wheat cereal afterwards. His cleans, though, are what separates the duo from the pack, as Anaal Nathrakh is the only band I know of who go from sheer insanity to completely and utterly unhinged when Dave actually sings. His operatic voice lends serious batshit intensity to the album’s most accessible (yet still off-the-rails) track “Idol,” the atmospheric “Unleash,” and album standout “The One Thing Needful,” featuring one hell of an infectious pre-chorus tremolo section. In fact, for those who know me, I want this song played at my funeral to warn whoever your chosen deity is of my impending arrival. Yes, it’s that fucking incredible.
Production-wise, Desideratum is right in line with their last two albums, Vanitas and Passion, meaning it’s quite heavily brickwalled yet still discernible and enjoyable. Some will say it’s a bit too clean, and I can see why they would say that, but I can’t picture this album sounding any other way without losing any of their trademark insanity or clarity, or making it sound like sheer white noise. One thing I can say is that many of the songs share the same tempo throughout, causing a bit of bleeding into each other. With the exceptions of the aforementioned clean singing parts and some of the slower portions of songs (like the intro to “A Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair” and parts of the incredible “The Joystream”) it all sounds like one song after a while. Thankfully, it’s one brutal, intense, absolutely fucking awesome song, but that and the production are what’s keeping me from scoring this higher.
Desideratum is a statement of malicious intent, a call-to-arms to rally the masses and bring forth armageddon. Anaal Nathrakh continue their brand of grinding merriment, sanity be damned, and they are taking your sorry ass with them. Submit, and revel in the insanity yet again.