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Anaal Nathrakh: Endarkenment

I was so fascinated with Anaal Nathrakh’s last album, A New Kind of Horror, that I honestly wasn’t sure if I was ready for something new. Listening to this band, as I’m sure some of you will agree, requires a certain amount of work and, perhaps, even of endurance. Part of what drew me to that album was its thematic focus on WWI and the way war not only robs us of life, but also of beauty, of sense, and of sympathy. To make the point that much more interesting, the band drew on a variety of WWI-era writers, many of whom discussed the war in ways that were both haunting and devastating.

With this album, the band once again draws on a variety of influences, but this time their focus is on the present moment, a moment marked by strangeness, uncertainty, and chaos. At first, I was a little disappointed, not with the music, but with the band’s apparent need to focus their ire on the present. I wanted Anaal Nathrakh to help me think about older problems, not the world I’m currently trying to avoid. But, given this band’s ongoing interest in creating a “musical bath in sulphuric acid,” I really can’t fault them for highlighting the corrosive qualities of our day.

If you read the band’s notes to this album, you’ll find some insight into the band’s larger thoughts on the music. I confess that I found these notes fascinating, partly because I like reading about sources and inspiration and partly because the band is just so thoughtful about many of their choices. A track like “Libidinous” is especially interesting to me because it transforms Walt Whitman’s celebratory observation that “Everything is sex” into a dark and seething rage against the ways sex and violence and fear are bottled up for consumption on the nightly news.

I was also interested in “Beyond Words” because I just re-read Stephen King’s “The Body” and was reminded of how much I enjoyed its reflections on the way language sometimes spoils our experiences. I think this song is making a similar point even though it has nothing to do with going on a quest to see a dead body.

Other standout tracks include the title track “Endarkenment,” a brutal piece of music that reflects on how far human beings have fallen from their own ideals. Similarly, “Singularity” puns on the general decadence of human life while also considering the possibility of a posthuman future. “Requiem” also had an ironic edge to it in that it took a generally reverent artform and transformed it into the soundtrack of our day. As the world appears to be in freefall, perhaps all we can do is cry out our lamentations.

As you can tell, this album isn’t the musical equivalent of a happy place. It’s dark and brutal in all the ways you’ve come to expect from this band. I still prefer A New Kind of Horror, but this album has enough strengths to make it worth experiencing. For me, the most interesting thing about the album (besides its sources) is the way it occasionally breaks through the chaos and uncovers a few bright spots. For example, “Requiem” is almost pretty by the end and “Create Art, Though the World May Perish” is strangely accessible in some spots. Even the blistering raging of “Endarkenment” has occasional glimmers of the melodic. Does this mean our beloved Anaal Nathrakh has lost their edge? Hardly. This album is as rough and despairing as their last one, but I think the band ultimately has to wonder if there isn’t something resembling hope out there somewhere, something that can lead to brighter days.

Track Listing:
1. Endarkenment
2. Thus, Always, to Tyrants
3. The Age of Starlight Ends
4. Libidinous (A Pig with Cocks in its Eyes)
5. Beyond Words
6. Feeding the Death Machine
7. Create Art, Though the World May Perish
8. Singularity
9. Punish Them
10. Requiem

Added: October 12th 2020
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Score:
Related Link: Bandcamp Page
Hits: 204
Language: english

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