Wrapping my brain around Anaal Nathrakh’s ‘Passion’

Three words easily can smarten up any person who’s yet to be exposed to Anaal Nathrakh’s vomitous filth: noise, chaos, hatred.

Even using those words, the UK duo is not easy to explain to someone who’s unfamiliar with the brand of hell this band unleashes. It’s loud. Of course, it’s loud. Most metal bands can be described as loud, so that’s not getting you anywhere. Heavy. Yes, obviously, as are most metal bands. Relentless works, too, but again, there are many bands that also can take on the description. All of those words work when describing Anaal Nathrakh, but none of them are definitive and none put any separation between them and every other metal band going. And you need that separation, because what these guys do isn’t typical, easy to handle, digestible or run of the mill. That brings us back to noise, chaos and hatred, three fitting adjectives that, while they’re the closest you can get to labeling this machine, still don’t quite convey what one is in for when handling their albums, their sixth and latest “Passion” included (out next week on Candlelight Records).

Anaal Nathrakh is known for blending genres, from black metal to industrial to grindcore, and their records are so ridiculously in your face, it sometimes is overwhelming. If I have their songs on a mix, theirs always stand out because of the fury on the overall volume. Their albums are LOUD, meaning the production makes it that way, and while I tend to like music that has its peaks and valleys, that concept wouldn’t really work for these guys. The duo – vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L. and guitarist/bassist/programmer Irrumator – spill forth tyrannical machine violence, but as mechanical as their assault seems, there’s a heart and soul behind it, spilling every ounce of putrid agony and loathing into what’s laying waste to your hearing. It’s something to behold. I read somewhere that the band was seen as logical successors to both Emperor’s majestic black metal and Napalm Death’s take-no-prisoners, hold-no-tongues punk grind, and that’s pretty accurate, but let’s not leave out Ministry, who made similar types of noise, but always with a consciousness toward melody, which Anaal Nathrakh also have.

“Passion” is an interesting album, and for someone long a fan of this band, it was tough to get into at first. It was never displeasing, mind you, just tough to grasp. I haven’t felt that way about one of their albums in a while, and 2009’s “In Constellation of the Black Widow” was an instant favorite for me. But I don’t mind earning albums, and I had to with “Passion,” one of their most forceful, weirdest pieces of work. The 36-minute album has some trademark stuff, such as static-blasted opener “Volenti Non Fit Iniuria” and seven-minute doom abrasion “Drug Fucking Abomination,” the title of which should clue you into the beating you’re about to receive. But where they veer from the path is where the record is most interesting. They reel in Rainer Landfermann (Pavor, Bethlehem) to provide horrifically spat and barked vocals to “Tod Huetel Uebel,” which has a tornadic, swirling horror-fest approach, and the bizarre and unsettling Alan Dubin (Khanate, Gnaw) provides his off-kilter, madman wail to “Ashes Screaming Silence,” an industrial thrasher that has some of the most satisfying and meaty guitar hammering of the entire record. “Paragon Pariah” is the record’s most approachable song, with an infectious melody from V.I.T.R.I.O.L. over the chorus and cool, fluid soloing.

There are some mild drawbacks to “Passion,” but they shouldn’t discourage you from indulging. “Who Thinks of the Executioner” is just an OK song, one that appears toward the end of the album and isn’t all that memorable. There also are a couple of shorter cuts, such as “Post-Traumatic Stress Euphoria” and “Locus of Damnation” that aren’t bad and blast by in a heartbeat, but they also don’t leave any indelible marks once they’re over.

Anaal Nathrakh has a signature, unmistakable sound, something most bands don’t even come close to achieving. Their noise swarms aren’t for everyone, and I’ve already read a few reviews bashing this record and claiming artistic redundancy. I don’t hear that myself. It’s a fresh sounding record, and because they’re not an easy band to ape, there aren’t hundreds of copycats out there watering down the main source’s output. I love their brand of noise, chaos and hatred, and while “Passion” isn’t my favorite record of Anaal Nathrakh’s catalog, it’s still a mighty one that’ll sound great anytime the traffic in my own head gets to be too much and I need to hear two human beings more frustrated and disillusioned than I am.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/anaalnathrakh

To buy “Passion,” go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store/

For more on the bale, go here: http://candlelightrecordsusa.com/site/