Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas Review

Anaal Nathrakh // Vanitas
Rating: 4.0/5.0 — Not as perfect as ITCotBW, but better than Passion.
Label: Candlelight Records (UK) | Candlelight Records (USA)
Websites: facebook | myspace
Release Date: EU: Out now! | N.A: 11.06.2012

Vanitas is a morbid form of visual art that prominently features objects such as skulls and rotting fruits, and the moral behind it is that of the “transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death”. In other words, it is visual Buddhism.

The greatest irony about vanitas, or any other art form that attempts to deal with such an idea, is the fact that they please the senses to some degree, and that obviously doesn’t go in line with the “futility of pleasure” part. As if to prove this point, Anaal Nathrakh’s ninth full-length release, Vanitas, is a piece of vanitas-referencing art that fails to escape this self-contradicting condition of vanitas… because it injects a bout of cancerous pleasure straight to your brain by piercing through your ear drums as though they were rotting peas!

For the “transience of life” part, there’s the beautiful lady up there with a horrible epidermic injury that spans the area above her right cheek bone down to her shoulder-less, er, shoulder area to show us how you will be really, really impermanent if you surgically slice that much skin off and cut off your shoulders. Also, she certainly looks dead because part of her skull is already showing, and a skull is synonymous with death! The symbol of the Grim Reaper himself! Hence, the “certainty of death” part, right?

Sonically, Vanitas evokes memories of the British duo’s 2009 masterpiece, In The Constellation of the Black Widow. The feral hatred that emanates from its songs is a contrast against the markedly cultured sense of sorrow evoked by 2011’s Passion. While enjoyable, Passion was the duo’s mellowest album ever, incorporating plenty of pseudo-clean singing in the form of V.I.T.R.I.O.L. “speaking” with melismatic treatment most of the time. How dull! Vanitas retains this pseudo-clean singing, but thankfully, it is not as prominent as it was in Passion. V.I.T.R.I.O.L. uses it sparingly this time round so that its ability to conjure that cultured sense of sorrow is preserved. You know how the overusage of spoken vulgarities diminishes its pain-numbing effect in actual “Fuck!”-worthy moments? The same concept applies here.

V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’s tortured screams of anguish reign supreme, and they ring in your ears long after they have violently shaken up air molecules such that they break up into their constituent atoms and then strip away their electrons as well. Fancy that! Your ear canals are clogged up with electrifying plasma now, how lovely and metal.

The saliently weird part of this album would have to be Anaal Nathrakh’s maiden usage of catchy industrial beats in certain songs. “Todos Somos Humanos”, “You Can’t Save Me, So Stop F*cking Trying” (the band or label must have censored the “F” word to condition you how to use it sparingly and preserve it for painful moments!) and “Feeding the Beast” largely have a In The Constellation of the Black Widow vibe to them, but somewhere along the way, a heart-thumping and too-mainstream-sounding-to-be-tr00 industrial motif suddenly pop out and pleasantly surprise your inner Rammstein fanboy.

Vanitas experiments with the incorporation of catchier industrial beats than before for 8 / 10 of its length, but as if to remind listeners again about Anaal Nathrakh’s penchant for uncompromising aural ferocity, it ends off with two songs free of any mainstream-sounding industrial motifs. “Of Fire, And Fucking Pigs” is a blazing fast number that will give you strong violent urges to disgorge people’s eyes with a butcher’s hook entering their right eye sockets first before coming out of their left ones, and “A Metaphor for the Dead” is a melancholic song with an eye-watering guitar solo that would have made your victims weep had you not already extracted their eyeballs.

Listening to this record is not going to be a crash course in attaining Nirvana, because it provides aural pleasure and makes you disregard one of vanitas’ three conditions. Instead, what it might make you realize is that hedonism is an inherently human trait that we can never truly erase, even though our brains are capable of appreciating the beauty of a concept that suggests otherwise. Once again, Anaal Nathrakh remind us of humanity’s inconsequential existence, and that’s what any excellent black metal band should do.

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