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Anaal Nathrakh: A New Kind of Horror

Anaal Nathrakh’s tenth album transforms Dorothy Parker’s ironic question “What fresh hell can this be?” into a dark declaration. The band has never been afraid to explore the worst of humanity, but this album has nothing happy, or even hopeful, about it. Some listeners may resist it for that reason alone, but they will miss out on something potentially insightful and transformative. Yes, this album is so harsh, so relentless, and so bleak that it could push even the most hardened extreme metal fan away. It’s also true that nobody in Anaal Nathrakh will feel sorry for them. As the title suggests, this is “a new kind of horror,” one that imagines the world on the brink of collapse, but not in the sense of your average action movie. Instead, this album takes listeners back to the horrors of World War I to reflect not only on the past but also on the present. It does so to suggest that we are too good at imagining the worst and that we have no idea where our own destructive impulses will take us.

For inspiration, the band drew on multiple authors, including poets like Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Philip Larkin, and D. H. Lawrence. In that sense, this album joins the ranks of other bands that have looked deeply at war, particularly its promises of glory and national growth, and found only empty rhetoric and a long trail of the dead. Now that it’s been 100 years since the Great War, the band is asking listeners to consider the parallels between then and now, how we can fall, once again, into terrors that rip apart our pretenses and our playing at progress.

I’m probably focusing too much on the album’s themes, but those themes make this album stand out from the rest. Now that I’ve listened to it a few times, I find myself wanting to think about it alongside its sources, to re-read those World War One poets and to wonder about their own experiences. I also wanted to imagine, alongside Anaal Nathrakh, how to express it all through an extreme metal idiom. In that sense alone, this album is a triumph of the creative spirit. It takes listeners into some of the darkest spaces, strips away all notions of heroism or nationalism, and points you simply in the direction of the abyss. Tracks like “The Reek of Fear” and “Forward!” surround us with claustrophobic sounds that create a rather disturbing experience. These are not tracks you’ll want to play on an endless loop, but they aren’t tracks you’ll forget. They are dark and violent and angry and disturbing.

Do all these dark reflections on war make this album good? Not necessarily. Some listeners won’t like its relentlessness. Still, you have to admire the way Anaal Nathrakh pushes listeners into the kinds of spaces only those rushing into battle might feel. As I write this, I’m listening to “Forward!” a track propelled by machine gun fire and human voices that are both determined and scared. I can also recall the horrible repeated cry of “Satan” at the end of “Mother of Satan.” This is a “War Pigs” for a new generation, something that moves beyond protest into absolute rage.

This is a powerful album. It delivers the goods while also provoking us to consider just what we’re doing now that the darkness looms so large.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing:
1. The Road to…
2. Obscene as Cancer
3. The Reek of Fear
4. Forward!
5. New Bethlehem / Mass Death Futures
6. The Apocalypse is About You!
7. Vi Coactus
8. Mother of Satan
9. The Horrid Strife
10. Are We Fit for Glory Yet? (The War to End Nothing)

Added: November 3rd 2018
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 813
Language: english

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