I am using the word dense a lot lately. And that’s not meant in a bad way. The RMR deck crew recently took a liking to high-intensity, super-octane Extreme Metal records that will just blow you away by sheer force. Or at least try to. And – second – we have it with duos this year. Bands that only consist of two members. I have no explanation why 2020 turns out this way, but it does.
So, this time it is Anaal Nathrakh‘s time to shine. And before you grow yourself any silly ideas, the name means snake breath in the old language of the Irish, I am told.
Well, Endarkenment already got on my good side with that stellar video the band issued some time ago on their title track. That Orwellian, extremely apocalyptic clip with the notion of ‘Drink Bleach’ scattered all over it. And that’s something that sounds strangely familiar in these times of bizarre tribulations.
And apocalyptic is probably a great way to describe this record. Boy, this whole concoction sounds like batman failed and Gotham City spiraled down into the dark abyss of the joker’s evil psyche. A thing that goes well beyond the aforementioned Orwell, and one that even Cthulhu would not be able to fix.
Anaal Nathrakh never quite bubbled to the surface of RMR’s mighty metal radar. Even if A New Kind of Horror got a few spins from us, its spottiness finally did it in. But this time, Endarkenment kicks this up a few hundred miles. And on this record, we relished this aggressive change from down-in-the-grind rasps to those Power Metal fused clears. Often they sound like Tommy Karevik1) who missed his calling and ended up in a Black Metal box.
And don’t get me wrong. I really fancy the way the band did this. Contrary to folks like Alcest who pretty much waft away into ethereal realms on their clear sections, this Extreme Metal thing just allows Anaal Nathrakh to bore way down into their metallic ground they fancy. In other words, the tune won’t lose any momentum. The album just switches sides, from clear to unclean without losing a beat. And that they beef all that up with those succinct solos here and there, just is the cherry on this darkened metal pie.
Now, that is not something we often experienced so far. The band’s crafty way to arrange their tracks creates a pretty juicy dynamic. One that will keep your attention span on red alert. Even if those tracks often sport a certain repetitive look and feel. But having said that, this is small potatoes. Because at the end of the day, you’ll yearn for more, once all that abrasive action ceased.
The fast-moving and ever-changing arrangements on Endarkenment will also avoid that repetitions will get the better of you. Like in Libidinous (A Pig with Cocks in Its Eyes) that suddenly hits you with this falsetto attack that just threw me. And there’s even a somewhat startling second version of the album cover2) to drive this sub-theme home. And no, you can’t unsee it once you looked at the illustration. Just don’t use bleach as an eyewash, whatever you do. I beg you.
The band indeed did well to kick this record off with the title track. The one that piggishly hits you like a friggin’ hammer blow. And once you hit The Age of Starlight Ends with its red-hot intensity that feels like a glowing nail in your skull, you’ve probably understood the pain you’re in. Hells bells, this sounds like Carach Angren‘s train derailed after consuming too much speed. Pun intended.
But wait until you get to the end of the tracklist. Requiem just culminates into the summary of a volcanic wild ride. From a trve tremolo fest to chantings of the dead, or – again – a meaty riff kinda going solo, it’s all there.
Finally, Endarkenment is just what the doctor ordered. We came across a few Extreme Metal pieces lately that somewhat got there, but only with some grinding of teeth. Instead, here, the record will grind you into the dust that you must become one day. Not slowly, but brutally and fast. This is one helluva stellar arrangement, one that finally lives up to the intensity it so ardently projects. And methinks that this album truly stands as a sign of the times, complete with that cataclysmal theme of theirs.
So in the end, it all comes together. A sturdily balanced, truly malevolent chunk of Black and Extreme Metal that will keep you in its steely claws until it spewed the last note of wisdom on you. You will not be able to escape, nor will you want to. And that’s exactly how it should be.
Ed’s note: The record successfully made it onto the 2020 Top 10 Records. And some old adepts of the snake breath opined that this record is weak tea. Judging by the level of crazy, they have a point, and here is why.