Anaal Nathrakh

Vanitas

Vanitas

Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
Published 10 October, 2012
Link: Facebook Page

All is vanity

The rate and regularity at which Mick Kenney and Dave Hunt release new Anaal Nathrakh material is quite impressive but that the quality of the material is always, always, at the highest of levels is nothing short of remarkable. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that we were devouring the band’s sixth full-length release, Passion, and less than two years before that we had In the Constellation of the Black Widow. Now, just shy of 18 months after Passion the band brings us their seventh full-length album in the form of Vanitas and it is everything any fan of the band could hope for albeit with a few subtle tweaks to their very entrenched and recognisable sound.

I think it’s safe to say that at this point in Anaal Nathrakh’s career no one is really walking into a new album from the band expecting to hear anything dramatically different than the last time around and, while I’ve had my issues with the band in that respect, the truth is that Anaal Nathrakh has carved out their own little niche within the metal pantheon and changing things up now would not only be redundant but it would also probably be a fatal mistake. To that end Vanitas can be seen as yet another variation on a theme in that the band’s trademarked grinding, industrial black metal core remains intact and relatively unchanged while it is the bits around the edges instead that have received some tweaking.

Probably the biggest of the aforementioned tweaks is that there is a greater incorporation of melody into the material this time around. It’s true that the musical template (for want of a better word) is practically the same as it has been for nearly a decade now, but the unrelenting blasting that Anaal Nathrakh are known for has been wound back ever so slightly to allow the riffs (of which there are many) to stand out a little more than they have in the past. Make no mistake, Vanitas is still heavy as hell, but it feels just a little less claustrophobic than one might reasonably expect from past outings with the band and the album really benefits from it with a nice flow and an enhanced sense of memorability.

Other, slightly less notable, changes this time around are the inclusion of some additional industrial and electronic elements (they haven’t gone overboard like that other band did not too long ago, having incorporated and utilised them tastefully) and a scaling back on the use of Dave Hunt’s clean vocals which is something I’m not quite sure how I feel about just yet as I’ve come to rather enjoy and even look forward to them. It’s possible, however, that the band felt that the increase in melody would offset the reduction in clean vocals and I think that’s a reasonable conclusion to come to; the combination of the two may well have watered down the overall intensity considerably.

Production-wise, Vanitas offers up what is arguably one of the best I’ve heard on an Anaal Nathrakh album to date. The gritty, distortion-heavy sound is there in all its glory, of course, but there is also a clarity and perhaps even a slight widening of the sonic envelope that simultaneously enhances the intensity (especially in the drum programming) while also allowing the riffs to breathe and resonate more distinctly than they might otherwise have done.

As I stated earlier, I think everyone knows what they’re getting into now when they pick up a new Anaal Nathrakh album and, in spite of the handful of tweaks to their sound, I don’t expect Vanitas to change anyone’s minds about the band if they are already made up. That being said though, Vanitas also feels like the most refined distillation of the sound Anaal Nathrakh has been championing for a decade now and it edges them ever closer to capturing their unique brand of madness as perfectly as possible which is impressive, especially in light of some of the criticisms (some of which I’ve made myself) that things were starting to get a little stale in their camp. Vanitas may not be a revolution but it is most certainly an evolution which is perfectly fine with me.

Candlelight Records

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