The Whole of the Law by Anaal NathrakhRelease date: October 28, 2016
Label: Metal Blade Records
For the past 15 years Anaal Nathrakh have been a huge part of my metal life… scratch that, LIFE! As a scruffy black-clad teen I first came across debut blasterpiece The Codex Necro in 2001 simply by chance. After thumbing through endless CDs its perversly torturous cover struck me like boot (stamping on the face of humanity), but little did I know just how sick and twisted the music would be. It was the sound I had been searching for ever since I first dipped my toe into the black bile of the metal scene and the merciless genre that I would be drawn to for the next 15 years. Its raw maniacal guitars flow through the veins of the album like diseased blood and the inhuman skin-pounding drums are heart-attack inducing. The whole album plays out like a furious beating and simply leaves you gasping for breath, but wanting to live its sweet pain over and over again.
Codex still remains one of metal’s heaviest albums, but sadly some Thrakh fans still live in the past like some foul Gollum clinging on to the precious disc that started the violence. The term ‘Necro’ was coined from this very album and is the decaying word that hangs around this band like a mushroom cloud. Too many look back and yearn for Nathrakh to harken back to the old days of said ‘necro’ – rawness, distorted strings and a lesser production, but the Nathrakh of now are a band that are very much different from their debut, and I for one think this is necessarily so. Those who are close to Nathrakh, and I mean those who ‘medically’ need their infectious filth at least once in their day like moi does, will know that they will do what they want to do and should be left to their own devices. Master of ceremonies Mick Kenney knows exactly what he is doing and fans know to let him work his magic.
2004 brought along Domine Non Es Dignus, which shrieked into life with its raw blackened metal style and 2006’s Eschaton followed in its own extreme grindcore tidal wave. Each album progressed in style without ever forgetting substance, building on their firm foundations of unyielding despair. Like some shapeshifting monster Anaal Nathrakh altered its sound without ever shifting from what it is at heart… pure fucking evil! Each album has its own unique strengths and introduced new elements of creativity that are now part of the framework of what makes Nathrakh so damn special.
It’s now 2016 and Nathrakh unleash another beast to bring about the end of days and I can finally stop rocking back and forth in an empty room. The Whole of the Law serves as a kind of sequel to 2014’s brilliant Desideratum, though being its own terrifying entity it still continues in the same vein. There are twists, turns and even hints of gabba beats. Mayhem and melody, beauty and unrelenting hatred all packaged neatly in one hell of a album.
Kicking off the album is opener ‘The Nameless Dread’, which is short and sweet, but packs a punch in terms of an ominous build up, with its almost air-raid industrial noise quality and impending doom drum beats signifying a violent uprising to come. The dread cuts too soon into ‘Depravity Favours The Bold’ and we know the beast has indeed risen again. Angelic choirs from another world christen the albums first true song before blastbeats pummel you into the ground and Dave Hunt’s trademark snarling scream rips through the blackened noise and twisted strings. You will find yourself I’m sure with a dropped jaw wanting to hit the back button just to hear that intro again. ‘Hold Your Children Close and Pray For Oblivion’ makes you want to do just that. Its grinding guitar work mixed with gabba beats and blasting drums leads into one of the most beautiful pieces of string work Kenney has produced.
As with songs of the past such as ‘The Joystream’, Kenney has the ability to conjure up raw emotion to give you a veiled glimpse of the true message behind the song. Some may mistake Nathrakh for being a band who simply ‘hates’, but I would say they are a band that hates the bad things in the world and aren’t afraid of tackling the issues that infect humanity. Nathrakh are so much more than a series of blastbeats or furious growls and that is certainly evident in ‘Hold Your Children Close…’ the band simply know how to portray the extremity and severity of a situation even when toning it down with a more melodic flow.
Next up is ‘We Will Fucking Kill You’, which acts as the albums unofficial title track and even taking its name from the lyric “we will fucking kill you, shall be the whole of the law”. You would think a song with such an in your face and threatening title would be a buzzsaw of a ride but there’s not a blastbeat in sight, instead Kenney opts for a more slower pace, but ups the ante when the catchy as hell chorus storms in. Back to the blast with the album’s first real unrelenting track ‘…So We Can Die Happy’ the drums build up like a ticking time bomb only to explode in your face with furious blastbeats as Dave Hunt shouts “fuck them! fuck them!” with such vehemence you find yourself screaming it inside your head along with him. It’s a Nathrakh lover’s song to put it simply and is one of the album’s stand out tracks, with its frenzied guitars and sheer forcefulness of its structure it carves its tune into your skull, and any track that closes with a nightmarish rendition of ‘The Wheels On The Bus’ is going to be a classic. ‘In Flagrante Delicto’ starts off with industrialised effects and creeps into very blackened metal complete with soul grabbing riffs and killer chorus that you’ll be mouthing in your sleep. From the first few seconds of ‘And They Will Beg For Our Secrets’ you know you should be strapping yourself in for a hellish ride. After the intro crescendos Hunt spews forth his sickest scream and a wall of crushing blastbeats cave in your ears. It’s a powerful and unholy hell of a song that barely lets up and allows you to breathe, with Hunt at his animalistic best.
‘Extravaganza!’ is the albums most interesting song and after several listens is one of their best in recent years. It’s a twisted carnivalesque creation with a deathly message at its heart. To the old school Thrakh fan it may take some getting used to especially with Hunt’s wailing King Diamond-esque vocals that take a couple of spins to get truly accustomed to, but the song is so damn good this just becomes another weapon in Hunt’s impressive vocal arsenal. What shines the most in this darkened track is the 30 second blastbeat that suddenly tears through the middle of the song like a runaway bulldozer and pummels your body until it becomes your heartbeat. If you don’t air drum to this you are just plain crazy! Put me in a padded room with that blastbeat on a loop and I will eventually transcend into the stars.
‘On Being A Slave’ builds up with a piercing and somewhat disturbing intro all leading up to a chaotic outburst of blastbeats and choirs, further proving that if you put metal with anything it’ll sound freaking awesome. The track is another stand out and showcases the best of Kenney and Hunt’s abilities. It also features one of the band’s best lyrics along the lines of “whose breath smells of their masters c**”. On to ‘The Great Spectator’, a decent track that doesn’t quite have the impact of the others on this release, though still a commendable song nonetheless. Strewn throughout the toned down song are electronic samples familiar from previous release Desideratum. The song acts as a kind of respite I suppose and much like the title you find yourself spectating, sitting by as the track runs through without really investing yourself too much in it. The same cannot be said about album closer ‘Of Horror, and the Black Shawls’, a true gem of a song that harkens back to the days of Satanarchist. The song screams of classic black metal with a harsh Anaal Nathrakh twist and Kenney’s further use of angelic choirs provide a nice touch to mellow the madness. The track and thus the album draws to a close with over 2 minutes of Kenney at his beautiful best with the guitars singing as sweetly as the choirs.
So what do we expect from Anaal Nathrakh? Blastbeats? Furious and grandious vocals? Of course! But this album is proof that we really shouldn’t have to expect anything from Nathrakh because they deliver consistently great material album after album, with a few surprises thrown in every time. Gabba beats, electronics and the threat of turning into metalcore shouldn’t deter the older Nathrakh fan from spending their money on every release. Nathrakh have nothing to prove and continue to crush our bones with their distinct sound. Is this album their heaviest? Probably not, but as a whole it’s a perfect showcase of what Nathrakh are all about. It’s menacing, unrelenting, furiously dark and full of sickly treats that show this band remain one of the best in metal and that their growth and history should be admired. In parts it may take a few listens to make your decision but once these tracks are in your head you will see how unforgettable this album is. If you live and love metal, Nathrakh should be bleeding through your veins. 9/10
Stand out tracks: ‘So We Can Die Happy’, ‘Extravaganza!’, ‘On Being A Slave’, ‘Of Horror, and the Black Shawls’.