Anaal Nathrakh - The Whole of the LawIf there are any bands out there that I can safely claim to have a major allegiance to, it would certainly be England’s Anaal Nathrakh. Maybe it’s because their magic blend of black metal, industrialized noise, grindcore, and even some power metal elements strikes a nerve with me like few other bands do. Or perhaps it’s because, whenever you hear people talk ill about any type of metal (kill your mother, rape your dog, etc.), chances are the music that Anaal Nathrakh spawns are the exact sounds these people actively imagine in their heads. Whatever it is, the duo has been on a tear since their face-shredding debut, 2001’s The Codex Necro. But after 2009’s unfuckwithable In The Constellation of the Black Widow, it felt like the band was just slightly retooling their formula. So I approached The Whole of the Law with some major trepidation.

And for the first few listens, I wasn’t feeling it. The trademark buzzsaw guitars, nonsensical shrieking, and everything being cranked up to 15 sound-wise perpetuated a migraine more than anything else. I worried that, like the last three albums prior (especially 2014’s Desideratum, an album I initially loved but have since only spun tracks here and there), that they’ve run out of ideas, spun their wheels into the ground so deep that any change brought forth by Mick Kenney or Dave Hunt would end up being forced or, worse yet, a betrayal. Thankfully, after much perseverance, two weeks of listening, and a quiet location, The Whole of the Law won me over. Yes, you read that correctly; an Anaal Nathrakh album that’s a grower. Hell truly is empty, folks!

What Desideratum, and its older siblings Passion and Vanitas, lacked that Constellation had in spades was successful layering of riffs. Whereas the last three traveled a more streamlined path, Whole screams “fuck it” and decimates your eardrums with riff after goddamned riff. Kenney eschewed the metalcore-ish leanings entirely to bring back the bleak-but-melodic landscapes he painted effortlessly on Constellation. As such, Whole features some of the strongest songs Kenney has penned to date. The all-out savagery on “We Will Fucking Kill You” meshes well with Hunt’s growls and maniacal shrieks. Kenney’s solos have also improved immeasurably, with his leads on “…So We Can Die Happy” and proper closer “Of Horror, and the Black Shawls” flying beautifully over the chaos like some sort of diseased archangel, surveying the decimation below. In other words, Kenney lit an inferno underneath himself and channeled Armageddon while doing so.

And Hunt? His sky-shredding shrieks, troubled guttural howls, and mad-prophet-with-Hell-in-his-eyes clean vocals improved significantly as well. His multi-layered chorus on album highlight “On Being a Slave” echoes back to the epic feel of “More of Fire Than Blood” while simultaneously throwing it into more depraved depths than ever imagined. “We Will Fucking Kill You” matches Cattle Decapitation in throwing a “harmonized” growl/scream chorus that’s both dirty and fucking awesome. And to further throw a wrench in the gears, “Extravaganza!” features Hunt doing a King Diamond-esque falsetto! The jury’s still out on that one, but it showcases Hunt’s versatility, and cements him as one of the best vocalists in metal today.

Anaal Nathrakh 2016
What the jury is not out on, however, is the severe sticking point of Whole, and I’m firmly aware that I could be a vocal minority on this. The “everything to 15” mixing job has got to go. Even at low volumes, Whole induced more migraines for me than any other AN album to date. I get that the need for distortion in your music to portray a certain sound and feel is necessary, but this album is so damn strong that the production and mixing job became major setbacks instead of assets. Also unnecessary are the two covers included. Their version of The Specials‘ classic “Man at C&A,” while an interesting interpretation, felt largely out-of-place, while their tremolo-heavy retake of Iron Maiden‘s “Powerslave” sounds muddled and less unhinged than we expect from AN. At least it showed that, if Bruce Dickinson were to leave Maiden again, Hunt would work in a pinch.

Anaal Nathrakh steered their ship back to crazier, bleaker waters just in the nick of time. While not as immediate as their last three albums, The Whole of the Law feels more like the direct descendant of Constellation, and in some ways even surpasses it. Hands down, The Whole of the Law is Anaal Nathrakh‘s strongest effort this decade. To quote Hunt in “Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion,” “This is what you wanted. This is what you need.”


Rating: 4.0/5.01
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: anaalnathrakh.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Anaalnathrakhofficial
Releases Worldwide: October 28th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. Yes, Desideratum received the same score, but this is an infinitely better album, despite the production.

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  • Righteous review! The embedded track reminded me a bit of one of our shared faves, December Wolves.

    • Grymm

      I miss DW so damn much, it hurts. Such a criminally overlooked band.

  • anonbr666

    Can’t wait to listen to this beast!

  • manimal

    Look man, you’re probably not trying to be unpleasant here, but I’m no longer on the list of suspects for Mother.

    And with regards to the dog, let me say it again, there was an out-of-court settlement.

    • Grymm

      *pause*

      GIMME BACK MY DOG!!!

      *uncontrollable sobbing*

      Teddy… *sniffle*

  • Reese Burns

    Can’t wait for this. October is on a fucking role this year!

  • Arjan Zwamborn

    This review made me positively fucking excited for this album. Luckily it releases tomorrow!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    And to think the original “Kill your father, fuck your mother” band were The Doors…

    • André Snyde Lopes

      There will always be Dying Fetus for those of us who prefer matricide and bestiality instead.

  • Diego Molero

    I never came around Anaal Nathrakh for some reason even though I like some songs from past records. But I enjoyed a lot the embedded track (love the clean vocals), so I will be checking this one out.
    Great review as always, Grymm!

    • De2013

      Yeah the clean vocals indeed. Plus the epic riffing. I think Gymm’s note on the “magic blend of black metal, industrialized noise, grindcore, and even some power metal” is on point.

      And I also noted the Gabber like hard code beats in this track. Amazing how they find just the right balance of all these different elements.

      • Johan

        I’ve always suspected that this was what Trey were imagining in his head when he wrote Illud divinum insanus but mixed up Gabber with Scooter when choosing presets for ProTools.

    • Grymm

      Dave Hunt is one of my favorite vocalists now. The dude could very well be my spirit animal.

  • Tyr

    I’m sorry but that was just horrible……30 year extreme metal fan but that was…..sorry.
    By the way, when are you reviewing the new Korn? LOLOLOLOLLLLLLL.
    Just kidding.

  • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

    Fuck, so many good records this month! Gotta spring for 40 Watt Sun and this, just this week. Better hit the powerball after work tonight….

  • ForgingTowardsTheFuckingSunset

    AN & Cattle Decap. are the pinnacle of extreme metal for me. The mix of uncompromising brutality with epic melodies make the proceedings extremely memorable. I’m waiting for the day when newer bands take inspiration (read: rip off) from bands like this. That’ll lead to some interesting results.

    Also, those who are not getting this it’s perfectly understandable. Industrial + grindcore + black metal w/ power metal choruses, yeah it’s one big clusterfuck but I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of best things I’ve heard.

    I’ll be blasting this shit come Armageddon!

    • Grymm

      Can you imagine an Anaal Nathrakh/Cattle Decapitation tour?

      *WHISTLES*

      • ForgingTowardsTheFuckingSunset

        The fucking world would come to an end & I can bet my backside I’ll be there to witness it!

      • AndySynn

        I once saw an Anaal Nathrakh/Marduk double header in a venue that probably held about 100 people… that was fun.

        • Sounds almost as good as Anaal Nathrakh + Voices at the Black Heart ;)

          • AndySynn

            Meh, I enjoy their albums, and won’t say no to seeing them live, but I do think that Voices are massively over-hyped. Still good, obviously, but… yeah.

            Funnily enough I’m at The Black Heart on Monday.

          • Booooooo. Boo. Booo.

            What are you seeing on Monday?

          • AndySynn

            Are you saying “Boo” or “Boo-urns”?

            Seeing (and supporting) Mithras. Very much looking forward to the show.

          • No way! That’s awesome. Have a good one, wish I could make it!

          • Morbid Brenda

            That gig was fcking outrageous

    • Dudeguy Jones

      I praise Slugdge for not fearing to show their Nathrakh leanings, both musically and vocally. Im sure you have heard Slugdge, so you know. But they seem to be one of the only ones taking this style, but mixing it into new configurations.

      • ForgingTowardsTheFuckingSunset

        I’ve heard these guys but it was some time ago back when I was unable to tell black metal & death metal apart. I guess I need to go back to their stuff now.

        As for bands being influenced by AN, it’ll take some time but we will get there. The closest thing I managed to find is Kunstzone. Industrial extreme metal is the best way I can describe them. Here check them out:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q5FCKZlv3Q
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHQ9wzw8zSM

        Extremely loud & abrasive but that goes without saying.

      • Grymm

        Slugdge are awesome.

        • Phil Daly

          Weirdly, it’s listening to Slugdge that got me into Anaal Nathrakh, who I’d never really encountered properly before. All hail Mollusca the backwards compatible!

          Updated “Slave Goo World” recently posted to Slugdge’s Facebook is monstrous. Looking forward to the next album enormously.

  • Antorus

    Not usually into this kind of stuff but that was really fucking badass.

  • AddicoInABox

    The power metal and industrial parts just totally fucking kill it for me, if anything, I find those parts totally detract from the extremity of the music and just make it kinda fuckin cheesy

  • Norfair Legend

    The vocals always just do it for me with AN, there’s just something so sickened/impassioned about them like no other.

  • Luke_22

    Great review. Really keen to dig into this one properly. I actually really liked Desideratum, so if this is a step up count me in. The production is a real bummer though. From what I’ve heard so far, despite a slightly higher DR rating, this sounds sonically even worse than Desideratum. Luckily the music is so damn good. I’ll prep the painkillers in readiness.

  • El_Cuervo

    If nothing else you’re brvtal as fvck Brother Grymm.

    • Bas

      Grymm is brvtal and Kronos is br0000tal… the tasks are clearly divided at AMG industries ;-)

  • beurbs

    Whoof, I’m still trying to figure out the Dillinger, slow down with all the great music

    • GardensTale

      ‘trying to figure out’ sounds about right. Every other riff needs mathematical analysis to get a fucking grip on.

  • JohnC

    Anal Nakthrakh: The Hole of the Law

  • Schmitzel

    I just saw these guys live for the first time and it was face meltingly awesome. And to top it off they played a bunch of songs of this album included the embedded one (sorry, I’m bad at remembering set lists). It truly is something to behold. I genuinely liked Desideratum and had it on constant rotation ever since it was released so I’m really looking forward to this one.

    Thanks for the awesome review, as always, Grymm m/

  • One More Thing

    This month has been fucking nuts. Between The Dillinger Escape Plan, Ulcerate, Unfathomable Ruination, Hail Spirit Noir, and now this, my top 10 for the year is over halfway done thanks to October alone.

  • GardensTale

    While I can never take more Anaal Nathrakh than small doses, it’s always a fucking blast. I always just went back to Hell is Empty because of this though. The embedded track is nice though, but I agree with your production point, this shit will split your skull at any volume

  • Ahhh! pwned by numerical scoring again!

    • Grymm

      I know, right? Only two songs that, while not bad, definitely pale compared to how strong the rest of the album is. That mix, though…

  • Dudeguy Jones

    Im glad to hear others are hearing the Black Widow references. And to say that this seems to be a more direct descendent of Black Widow is spot on.
    I haven’t enjoyed any of the last few albums nearly as much as this.

    Despite having less “clean” vocals, they sound more triumphant than ever in their task to lay waste to the ears of the world.

  • Exitium

    This sounds like if Dimmu Borgir decided to join forces with Devin Townsend and create another City.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    The choir work on here is incredible, and meshes so brilliantly with the music. Definitely one of their strongest efforts in years. Sadly, I have to listen to this at a very low volume as well just so my head won’t explode.

    Probably a stupid question, or one better directed at the Metal-Fi crew, but, is there anything one can do with such shitty mixes to make them easier on the ears? Run it through an audio tool like Audacity and perform some magic?

    • Bart the Repairman

      Even the best repairman couldn’t do anything, it’s ruined. Maybe try rolling back these piercing highs with some wide-scoped EQ, that’s all I’m afraid.

  • Can’t remember the last time I heard an entire album through online-streams, but I’m deep into my second spin now. Lovely.

    That “Extravaganza!” does have a ring of King Diamond to it, but I keep hearing some more concrete associations in the chorus’ish part of the melody lines. Just can’t seem to place it. Help, anyone?

    • I’ve narrowed it down to Morgul – The Horror Grandeur, no thanks to you fuckers ;)

  • Martijn Brugman

    I cannot do anything else except turn up the volume while playing this. To me, it’s a combination of the pure genius of Emperor’s Anthems …. and all the things Dimmu Borgir did right on Death Cult Armageddon, but then LOUDER.
    I’m not quite sure what’s happening in the album art, though…

  • Lou Daz

    Wow. I’ve never heard AN before, but I’m glad I have now. Insane.

  • Requiem

    God I love this band, but God I wish they’d learn how to fucking produce something that doesn’t induce a headache a second…

  • Kryopsis

    This is fucking amazing, definitely one of the best albums this year. I loved Desideratum but this is indeed better.

  • Treble Yell

    Why did I listen to this album now as I’m trying to sort out my top ten? So crushingly good. Listening to Hunt makes me miss the now defunct Mistress.

  • whole of the law is my fav AN album

  • also the production hasnt been better in any other album than whole imo