Just as one can be sure that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, fans of extreme metal can depend upon the two-piece killing machine that is Anaal Nathrakh to awaken from their slumber every two years to unleash sonic hell. Whether it’s despair at the world we live in or a necessary expulsion of bile in order to remain sane, Messrs Irrumator and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. just keep on producing albums that push the boundaries of extremity and 15 years into their career show no signs of slowing down or taking it easy on eighth full-length “Desideratum.”
While industrial elements have been an integral part of the bands’ sound since their inception, they have mostly been used as a caustic sheen to make the black metal riffs raging away underneath even more abrasive. So it may come as a surprise to long time listeners that intro track ‘Acheronta Movebimus’ features the kind of clipped mechanical riffing that usually appears on Ministry albums, while the distorted samples belong in the realms of extreme techno. But Anaal Nathrakh have always been dedicated to causing fear and uncertainty so this should be viewed as just another way of pulling the proverbial rug out from underneath the listener’s feet.
Normal order is instantly restored on ‘Unleash’, a classic number that features gonzoid Mayhem riffing, scattergun percussion and a wonderfully pompous clean-sung chorus. The booming bass drops that popped up on previous record “Vanitas” make an appearance once more with the feeling that you’re in an elevator plummeting to the depths of hell all too apparent. ‘Monstrum In Animo’ is full of unsettling, skittish time signatures giving the track a restless feel which the brief messy solo and gradually building sense of chaos exacerbates while the rabid menace of ‘The One Thing Needful’ features some truly horrible screeching from V.I.T.R.I.O.L. which makes the passionate chorus even more cutting when it emerges from the swirling maelstrom.
The rest of “Desideratum” continues in the same vein with several highlights, for example the choppy brutality of ‘A Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair’ which employs traditional black metal melodies amid the churning rhythm section, the classic Nathrakh of ‘Idol’ which can be viewed as a companion piece to ‘Unleash’, harking back to the assured extremity of 2006’s “Eschaton” and the punked-up D-beat attack of ‘Sub Specie Aeterni (Of Maggots and Humanity)’ which sees the band acknowledging the grind element to their sound.
While other black metal bands radically alter their sound in order to remain relevant, Anaal Nathrakh long ago perfected their formula and now merely tinkers with it like a mad scientist in order to discover more effective killing methods. Every new mutated strain is equally damaging but subtly different, and while “Desideratum” may not quite hit the heights of 2012’s magnificent “Vanitas”, it still pisses molten fire onto the majority of the bands’ contemporaries and smirks mockingly at their death agonies. We’d be far poorer without them.