Album Review | Anaal Nathrakh | Endarkenment

Anaal Nathrakh has always been in a league of their own. Their music is consistently visceral and aggressive but it also has that musical touch that manages to hook you in despite metaphorically dragging you through broken glass and needles to get there. Endarkenment might be the most refined of all their material and it was a release I thoroughly enjoyed. The music, although still as frenetic and disgusting as ever, bears a remarkably more poppy sentimentality than ever before, and due to this, the album does wear slightly after multiple listens. That being said, it might be one of my favourite releases of theirs yet. Many elements of this album remind me of Hell Is Empty, and All the Devils Are Here and it’s a far cry from the last two albums which were veritable dumpster fires in my eyes… and ears (and we will do our best to ignore them completely).

For anyone who has listened to Anaal Nathrakh before, you should probably have a good idea of what you are going to get, and you would more or less be right. As mentioned, the album does lean towards their more catchy and melodic work, though it does not shy away from the decrepit and manic quality they’ve always managed to deliver in their heavier sections. The melodic sections range from ultra-cheese (yet still compelling) to emotive and powerful to downright awful (one in particular); however, I still feel the album is a treat for the ears. There were some surprising musical choices that I did not expect, in particular some Djent and metalcore style passages. At first, I was mildly put off by these sections, however, after a few listens, even some of these unexpected parts seemed to grow on me. The album production is faultless, although this level of consumability that runs in congruence to the production value is probably what lends the album to feeling a bit tired after too many listens.

The album’s lyrics are interesting. As usual, the writing seems to be relatively deep and meaningful, equal parts anti-establishment, dystopian, and inflammatory. Although I did find the lyrical style to be poetic and enjoyable to read, I was a little confused as to the content of the lyrics. The band has always employed a cryptic style to their written content and usually, it is quite hard to find accurate lyrics. This time around I found a few that were copied from the album booklet and some that were deciphered by fans. There are still huge chunks of inaudible screaming that remain to be made sense of, however, the lyrics, when they are not shocking and offensive, are ambiguous at best. For the most part, the meaning of the lyrics seems intentionally vague, so I won’t delve any further into this topic. I leave you to make up your own mind.

What can be said about the performance of V.I.T.R.I.O.L and Irrumator that has not already been said? The vocals are on top form as always. The range of sounds that emanate from Dave Hunt’s mouth are gateways to cold and dead universes. They are profane in every sense of the word and part of the experience of listening to this band involves being enamoured and terrified at Hunt’s ability. Although it is well known the vocals are not quite the same live, I can ignore that factor and will purely be talking about the vocals at the studio-recorded level. Mick Kenney, as always, amazes and astounds with his ferocious speeds and extremely technical and tight playing as well as his engrossing songwriting ability. I enjoyed the leads that were dotted throughout the album, which is not something I usually expect from Anaal Nathrakh. We mustn’t forget that Kenney also does all of the bass, drum programming, and other such elements heard on the album. Truly a man of copious talent. I probably can’t add any more to this without gushing lyrical praise for these musicians so I will put a plug in it here.

The music as mentioned has that disturbing grit and intensity that is a hallmark for the band; however, this record is a touch more anthemic than most of their previous efforts. This is both enjoyable but also tends towards cheesy at times. It’s not enough to ruin the experience but it does put me off one or two parts of some songs. Let me discuss some of the highlights (and lowlights) of the album now.

“Endarkenment” is a perfect opener and immediately harkens to everything that I’ve ever liked about Nathrakh yet tied together with a catchy and moving chorus. Something about this chorus gives me intense power metal vibes (which I like, though it may not be everyone’s preference). This is possibly due to the intense vibrato and full-chested vocal style Hunt employs, but also partially due to the harmonic progression and guitar style. The middle section even employs a high falsetto shriek which really helps to tie my power metal comparison together. “Thus, Always, To Tyrants”, the second track, is a bit more all over the place. Indecipherable lyrics and a particular death metal/grind sentiment run amok that is fun to say the least, but it’s not one of the more memorable tracks on the album.

My favourite track of the record has to be “The Age of Starlight Ends” as the songwriting is pure perfection. The operatic female vocals (slightly reminiscent of Septic Flesh’s “Vampire from Nazareth”) are creepy yet mellifluous at the same time. The song also has some melodeath elements and although I feel I have mostly grown out of this style of death metal, it still gives me warm nostalgic feelings inside. The song is tied nicely together with a Dragonland style guitar lead that gets me right in the feels and reminds me of the 2000s and CD Walkmans.

“Libidinous (a Pig with Cocks in Its Eyes)” is worth mentioning for the title alone, but it is also the song that incorporates some modern metal elements into it. It has Djent and metalcore sentiments that are unusual to hear from the band. As mentioned, I was slightly put off initially by this, but after many listens this has become one of my favourites of the record. I think if I am going to get a chance, I need to mention it here that I am particularly impressed by the use of the word ‘cock’ in both family-friendly and R18 contexts. It might be the first album ever to achieve this milestone (achievement unlocked).

My reviews seem to be growing longer and longer by the week, so to wrap it up I will speed through my last points of interest:

“Feeding the Death Machine” has an amazing opening riff. Again, elements of Gothenburg melodeath are very apparent yet I am quite partial to it in this context. Reminiscent of bands like Intestine Baalism which might be one of my favourite acts of that genre. This song also features one of the most epic solos of the release.

I need to point out here I really, really dislike the chorus of “Create Art, Though the World May Perish”. It just does not click with me and although I love the title of the song, this refrain is just a bit too Disney for me.

“Singularity” also has an incredible lead guitar part and “Punish Them” has a stupefyingly cool opening riff. There are some OSDM elements in this track too, particularly the turn-around at the end of the riff. Anaal Nathrakh is nothing short of diverse and their range of genres is on full display with this release.

“Requiem” has an interesting spooky lead in the intro, but the lyrics are a bit silly. I find Latin lyrics to be a little pretentious, overdone, and almost irrelevant nowadays. Also, it might be my least favourite song off the album even with the cool spoopy (not sic) leads.

So, there you have it. Definitely the best record to come from the band in a long time and potentially one of their best overall, but I think I would have to do a full deep dive into their back catalog to make that claim with any confidence. It’s one of the most original sounding metal records out there right now so be sure to give it at least a spin or two.

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You can grab a digital copy of Endarkenment over on the Anaal Nathrakh Bandcamp page or go listen to it on Spotify. You can also grab a vinyl over at the Nuclear Blast merch page.

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