Bands like Anaal Nathrakh deserve recognition as the threshold between extremity and complete madness. The diabolic duo of multi-instrumentalist Mick Kenney (aka Irrumator) and vocalist Dave Hunt (aka V.I.T.R.I.O.L., short for Visita Interiora Terræ Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem) have spent the past 19 years making some of the most extreme music ever. It’s appropriate that these two birthed their nexus of black metal, grindcore, and industrial noise in the same city as Black Sabbath and Napalm Death, as Anaal Nathrakh pushes boundaries today as those two bands did back in their heyday. Even with more melody and groove added to the unbridled mayhem, 2016’s The Whole of the Law and 2018’s A New Kind of Horror are largely recognized as high points in Anaal Nathrakh's intimidating discography. Endarkenment has a similar appeal to its predecessors but leans a bit harder into overwhelming aggression when it counts most.
Hunt’s lyrical concepts have always sported a lethal combination of literary depth and nihilistic abandon. In name alone, the album lends itself to Anaal Nathrakh’s familiar verbosity. It reads like a doubling down on, a sentiment that hits like a stampede with the opening title track. It’s very much within the band’s wheelhouse of absurdly fast programmed drums, unrelenting riffs, maniacal screams, and fanfare choruses, the latter of which sums up the band’s appraisal of modern ruination: “We retreat to dust, ignoble, sublime/ Nothing to reach for, the death of the mind/ Fuck all salvation/ The truth is a lie.” For a band whose bread and butter has remained the embodiment of the apocalypse, it’s hard not to hop on board for another ride into oblivion.
Anaal Nathrakh might be the only band to properly solve the conundrum of clean vocals ruining heaviness. Hunt never lets up in intensity, whether he deals demented snarls, guttural gurgles or operatic singing, which is why the various sections of “Thus, Always, to Tyrants” amount to different spires of the same infernal bastille. Kenney hasn't forsaken his affinity for bombastic samples or chaotic guitar work, but he never fails to lock everything in with a robotic blast beat. In fact, his guitar work on “The Age of Starlight Ends” directs Anaal Nathrakh’s usual abuse and a bridge with overtones almost akin to power metal. From danceable double bass grooves to twisted blackened grind symphonies, the band's sound is as bulletproof as ever.
“Libidinous (alternatively called, well, look at this album’s NSFW artwork), taps into Anaal Nathrakh’s ability to profoundly shock people in today’s day and age. Even though the song has a more melo-death structure mostly centers around mid-tempo drumming, the band’s malicious intent remains clear. Hunt’s inhuman vocalizations come sandwiched in the catchiest chorus the band has ever written and also sees the return of his recent penchant for King Diamond-style falsetto. Similarly, the infectious tremolo syncopation, resonant leads, and thrashy drums of “Feeding the Death Machine” could pass as a darker take on At The Gates, if not for Hunt’s staggering range of empowering melody and demonic retches.
The hellish violence of “Beyond Words” speaks for itself, highlighting the contrast between Kenney’s airtight arrangements and Hunt’s unhinged vocals. The band plead the fifth as to the lyrics, but the track takes the cake as far as a throat-destroying diatribe. Hunt’s vocals often seem boosted in the mix, to the point where he sounds like he’s screaming right into your ear. If anything, he’s only gotten more outlandish as Kenney’s hints at more accessible songwriting. Although tracks remain adequately distinct, the fact Hunt and Kenney rarely let up the full-throttle attack does lend Endarkenment to the formula Anaal Nathrakh has stuck with for the past few years. You could argue that “Singularity” is business as usual, if the ideas at play weren’t so damn good. It’s not every day a band can throw hum-along guitar leads and black/grind pandemonium into the same song, but this band balances these extremes naturally and vehemently
A cynical disdain for life is inherent in Anaal Nathrakh’s concept, as epitomised by the mere title of “Create Art, Though the World May Perish.” Even when the song’s dissonant guitar licks and vicious rhythm breaks give way to the battle-cry chorus, Hunt sounds like he’s triumphantly heralding the arrival of armageddon. He uses melody to welcome the end of all things, before using his bestial screams to embody the demonic slaughter. The band’s hatred never seems aimless, but certainly universal. In fact, the harrowing onslaught of “Punish Them” includes a distorted sound collage of the band reading internet comments they found revoltingly "human." To quote the album's liner notes, such niceties make “you just want to vomit blood on them.”
Endarkenment essentially proclaims, “Shut up. Everything sucks and we love to hate everything.” The terrifying racket certainly does the trick, but the rousing modulations inherent of closer “Requiem” give a tangible presence to the ear-piercing shrieks and flesh-ripping riffs. Perhaps this is why the song seamlessly transitions from orchestral pandemonium and a face-melting guitar solo into an addictive mid-tempo stomp. It almost doesn’t register that Hunt starts screaming bloody murder over the emotive leads, because Anaal Nathrakh values musicality and taste as much as extremity for extremity's sake.
Anaal Nathrakh continues its journey of decedent metal with sadistic zeal and has yet to compromise its abhorrent purpose. At this point, it’d be acceptable for Kenney and Hunt to assume that they've already stormed every barricade of pitch-black evil… but they’re clearly not going to stop until they’ve turned over every stone in their barbaric dominion.