As if pleased that the world has caught up with their nihilistic mentality, Anaal Nathrakh sound particularly emboldened on ‘Endarkenment’. A grim descent in extreme metal maximalism, on their eleventh album the Birmingham veterans plough similar terrain to previous works, for both better and for worse.
Previous full-length, ‘A New Kind Of Horror’, hinted at some new additions to the Anaal Nathrakh formula, including a strong thematic concept and some well-placed adornments of crackled electronica. As a whole, it wasn’t a huge variation on the band’s sound, but it hinted at a willingness to experiment on future endeavours.
What a disappointment it is to discover that Anaal Nathrakh haven’t pushed forward with this adventurism, and have rather stuck with what they’re familiar with; the usual formula of ferocious blast beats, melodeath guitars, and soaring choruses. It’s a tried-and-tested combination that’s bought the band a solid cult following, however, the brash extremity of the formula is starting to show its limitations.
Perhaps the biggest issue with ‘Endarkenment’ is the aforementioned maximalism. This is a key feature of Anaal Nathrakh‘s sound, a relentless assault of rapid instrumentation, combined with a layer of symphonic grandeur that often becomes quite overbearing, it ends up merely achieving a numbing, white-noise quality rather than an intimidating or oppressive one. Almost every song on ‘Endarkenment’ suffers from this issue, which especially becomes a problem on the back half of the album, where the tracks continue their assault with little to no variation on the theme.
Taken as their own self-contained beasts, certain tracks do work. ‘Thus, Always, To Tyrants’ is a punishing work of grindcore madness, with the programmed drums being pushed to their limit and Dave Hunt‘s manic vocals firing at their most ￼unhinged. ‘Feeding The Death Machine’ is also a standout, an intense work of melodic death metal that features a great riff and post-solo hangbang-section.
However, there are too many tracks that feel like works of manic frenzy without any sense of formal nuance or textural awareness. ‘Punish Them’ is an aptly-titled chore, three and a half minutes of blast beats and frantic guitars that feels too randomly arranged and un-thought out to leave any lasting impression. ‘The Age Of Starlight Ends’ is another culprit; a relentless, numbing workout, it fails to exhilarate, giving too much time to its copious blast beats and terrible clean choruses.
These chorus sections are ‘Endarkenment’‘s – and probably Anaal Nathrakh‘s – biggest weakness. The soaring, almost power metal melodies of ‘The Age Of Starlight Ends’, ‘Create Art, Though The World May Perish’ and multiple others are all painfully unengaging and dated. With bands like Cattle Decapitation incorporating strange, eerie clean vocals into their extreme metal chaos, Anaal Nathrakh‘s use of them needs a serious rethink.
A mixed bag, ‘Endarkenment’ could have been a savage indictment of our strange, darkening times. However, its lack of formal discipline and unwillingness to deviate from a problematic formula means it fails to leave much of a lasting sting, which for an album of such maximalist savagery, isn’t at all good enough.