So this is one of those bands that I really know nothing about. Back when I started reviewing I got the record Constellation of the Black Widow and I remember thinking it was pretty good, but it was a few months old at that time and so I never did a review of it. But in a world full of shitty black metal that bores me to tears by being repetitive and uninteresting, Anaal Nathrakh definitely appeared to be ahead of the game by, actually, not boring me to tears. I was reasonably interested to get around to reviewing Passion when I got it a while ago, but what with my busy schedule and everything I’d hardly even gotten around to listening to it until lately. And let me say, I’m impressed.
I’ll treat this as a crash course for n00bs, since I’m definitely one. Having launched in 2001, Passion is Anaal Nathrakh‘s 8th full length record. Hailing from England, these guys supposedly blend black metal with grindcore and industrial influences. And while I guess that might be true, I have different impressions of what it is the band is actually doing. In any case, when you’re releasing a barn burner of an album like Passion for your 8th record, you must be doing something right and these two dudes, V.I.T.R.I.O.L. who does vocals and Irrumator who does the guitars, bass and programming, appear to be really putting together engaging and chaotic black metal.
I use the word “chaotic,” and I think that’s the best adjective to really describe this record. While it’s not off the wall or sporadic, the heavily distorted vocals of VITRIOL, which go between Corporate Death (Macabre) style shrieking screams and Emperor-era clean vocals from Ihsahn, give a feeling of barely contained insanity seething through every track. Musically the backing to this insanity is razor sharp riffing, programmed blasting drums that add to the chaotic feel, and some minor industrial influences. These guys have been around for 10 years and the scene has grown a lot since they came out, so it’s not like what they’re doing is exactly hyper ground breaking, I’m sure the long time fan would be able to dig through this record and point out where the band is citing themselves, for example.
Where this record differentiates itself from the modern, or even Norwegian scene that it arguably cites, is that the tracks aren’t nearly as epic and there isn’t a sense of pretentiousness that comes along with listening to modern black metal. Aside from “Drug-Fucking Abomination,” this record is filled with pretty short songs, some even as short as a minute long, fitting far more into the grind category than the Wolves in the Throne Room style mold, and that makes it remarkably refreshing to listen to. Fast, heavy, chaotic and not craving patience, just your unbridled rage and all those chaotic feelings that are kept under the skin. This is tremendously successful.
Still, I can’t help but feel like this record isn’t a blend of older Emperor with some more industrial style influences and grind. While the vocals are unhinged, the writing doesn’t follow suit, it’s pretty much par for the course. So it doesn’t exactly push Anaal Nathrakh into the “doing lots of new shit!” and “too damn much for you!” categories. But in my book that’s entirely OK. This record clocks in at 36 minutes and it’s a kick in the face with amazing riffs, great songwriting and some dynamic vocals that sound like they were contributed taking a mic into your local insane asylum, and that will make you uneasy and make your living partners look at you strangely. What more can we ask for? Not too much.