Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
Published 28 August, 2009
Hate in its purest form
Over the course of the past 8 years Anaal Nathrakh have gone through a steady transformation, moving from their interesting pure black metal beginnings through to their black metal cum grindcore sound of today whose seeds were sown on their sophomore release Domine Non Es Dignus and have been steadily cultivated and nurtured through Eschaton and then onto Hell Is Empty… back in 2007. In the Constellation of the Black Widow marks the 5th full length release from the duo from Birmingham in the UK.
I’ve been a rabid devotee of Anaal Nathrakh for a while now but tend towards their contemporary sound as found on Eschaton and Hell Is Empty as opposed to their earlier material, though I dig it as well. I’ve enjoyed looking back across their catalogue and noting the progression they have undertaken across their albums but, in saying that, I found little discernable differentiation between their last 2 albums; they are both brilliant in their own right but were clearly cut from the same mould with only minor tweaking done to the core of the sound. In the Constellation of the Black Widow, like those two prior albums, again features tweaks to the band’s trademark black/grindcore sound.
A constant fixture of Anaal Nathrakh’s music is the overtly harsh and angry manner in which it is presented and as the rumble of the short lead up to the first song and title track gives way to the band’s now trademarked musical maelstrom it is clear that this album will stay true to tradition. In the Constellation of the Black Widow utterly drips with spite and venom, spewing forth blistering riffs and tortured distorted screams as though they have been ripped directly out of the bowels of hell itself. There is atmosphere here and that atmosphere is one of hatred and misanthropy.
In the Constellation… shares many of the features that made Hell Is Empty… the album that it was (and Eschaton too for that matter) but does manage to differentiate itself as well. There is a level of cohesion present within the song writing this time around that binds the album together at a level not seen on previous efforts. Much of this is due to a heavy verse/chorus, verse/chorus approach to the structuring of the songs that allows the band to utilise their powerful and effective riffing to the best possible advantage but there is also a heightened sense of melody to be found as well that forms a series of strong hooks to draw you deeper into the chaos. The band also allows themselves to slow things down on occasion to not only allow the listener to catch their breath, but also to break things up as well. Songs like The Unbearable Filth of the Soul is a prime example being mostly a mid paced number but other tracks like The Lucifer Effect and Oil Upon the Sores of Lepers, amongst many others, feature slower blastbeat free sections that float very close to being groovy, showing us a more varied and diverse side to the band.
To my ears the production on In the Constellation… is clearer than that of prior efforts yet, at the same time, sounds infinitely angrier too with a serpentine like hiss sitting just beneath the music to taunt you at every turn. While you’re listening to this album it’s hard to imagine hearing anything that would come even remotely close to it in terms of pure aggression and honest, raw emotion.
I love Anaal Nathrakh and the niche they have carved for themselves but I also believe that they are skirting very close to becoming formulaic, in spite of how much I enjoyed this album. I would hate to see such an amazing band fall by the wayside by becoming predictable and passé but I do suspect that at some point very soon Anaal Nathrakh will struggle to retain that instantly recognisable sound while still pushing it in new directions. Regardless, I can’t wait to find out what they have in store for us next time because this album will be very difficult to top.
(Candlelight Records/Modern Invasion Music)