ALBUM REVIEW: Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment

Release Date: October 2nd 2020
Label: Metal Blade Records
Website: None available
Facebook: www.facebook.com/anaalnathrakhofficial
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Rating:

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.