Artist: Anaal Nathrakh
Album: The Whole of the Law
Genre: Black metal / Grindcore
Links: Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, record label
It took seven years, but “The Whole of the Law” is Anaal Nathrakh’s masterful return to form.
The British duo have long since carved a name for themselves with their staggeringly ferocious blend of black metal and grindcore. While neither genre is known for accessibility, Anaal Nathrakh’s music is particularly intimidating. The death growls sound more like death roars, the screeches veer on the psychotic side and the instrumentation beats you half dead with savage violence.
Of course, song titles such as “We Will Fucking Kill You” and “Hold your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion” should’ve given that away. Indeed, “The Whole of the Law” has the intensity of a nuclear bomb and the subtlety to match and is all the better for it. The band’s latest record finally strips the detrimental industrial elements and dull song structures of the prior three albums for a return to pure aggression and unfiltered, caustic rage.
The songwriting is undoubtedly stronger than ever before, with nary a riff, drum beat or solo out of place. Intro aside, the viciousness is dialed to eleven and rarely lets up, though reasonable song lengths prevent fatigue from setting in. Like the band’s fantastic 2009 record, “In the Constellation of the Black Widow,” each of “The Whole of the Law’s” tracks have blink-and-you-miss-it standout moments that diversify the album and greatly improve its staying power.
Monotony is certainly not an issue. “Depravity Favors the Bold” and “We Will Fucking Kill You” are several of the more “melodic” tracks and even feature some well-placed symphonic elements. Soaring clean vocals and choruses appear on many of the songs and serve as brief respites from the blackened madness.
Vocalist Dave Hunt deserves special praise. This is one of the best vocal deliveries of his career — no small feat — and his range is nigh unmatched in the genre. The latter half of “In Flagrante Delicto” features a howling that sounds more excised demon than human. Yet several songs later, Hunt breaks into falsetto.
Still, like “In the Constellation of the Black Widow,” Anaal Nathrakh’s latest is bound to split listeners. For one, the production is loud. Incredibly loud. Though I’d argue that it enhances the chaotic, extreme atmosphere, it’s reasonable to expect the sheer level of volume to cross into deafening territory for an unfortunate portion of listeners.
Also controversial: the two covers that close out the record: Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” and The Specials’ “Man at C&A,” the latter of which was released as a single in 2011. They’re remarkably solid tributes but their slower paces seem completely out of place when paired with the album’s original material and kill the flow.
But that’s OK, they’re at the end of the album and I choose to ignore them. Polarizing production and two iffy covers would bar most records from achieving a perfect score, but “The Whole of the Law” truly deserves nothing less. Covers aside, there’s over 40 minutes of near-flawless original material here. The essence of death and misery has never sounded so good.
This is certainly the duo’s strongest record of the decade and one of the year’s finest maelstroms of aural destruction.
In other words, Anaal Nathrakh is back. More please.