Anaal Nathrakh – In the Constellation of the Black Widow
It really is a shame that black metal has such constricting limitation. As bands embraced by the genre branch out into more progressive territory, purveyors of absolute darkness more oft than not turn their backs on the artists they claim to worship. The trend could be seen acting itself out upon the most influential of corpse-painters, as Emperor and Immortal traded in their blast beats and atonal atmospherics for symphonic arrangements and a heavier thrash influence. While each band branched out into broader horizons, many of their “fans” called foul as their heroes explored vaster musical terrain.
In 2001, Anaal Nathrakh, a self proclaimed “side-project” for the vocalist and drummer of Birmingham’s Mistress, dropped The Codex Necro into the laps of numerous extreme metal fans, and they ate it up quick. Buzzsaw guitars, demented media samples, programmed drums, and murky production bled amongst one another to form one of the filthiest, unsettling, and ultimately refreshing releases of the past decade. The music itself drew heavily from a number of other genres, incorporating industrial and grindcore elements, but stayed firmly rooted in black metal. It was angry, it was violent, and it’s still both of those today.
It’s now 2009. Four full-lengths later, Dave “V.I.T.R.I.O.L.” Hunt (vocals) and Mick “Irrumator” Kenney (everything else) have released the best album in their career. Seven years of tweaking influences, refining production quality, and adding operatic vocals to their itinerary have yielded the most abrasive, listener-unfriendly major release of 2009. Don’t worry though, this is a very, very good thing. On In the Constellation of the Black Widow, Anaal Nathrakh have learned to train their demons.
The album opens with the title track, a tour de force of the band’s back catalogue. Call it a farewell to the past or a passover into their modern material, the song summarizes Anaal Nathrakh 1998-2009 in four ear-shattering minutes. The song starts with some disturbing sampling of maniacal laughs and transitions into a doom-tinged riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Zoroaster record. All’s well until, forty seconds into the riff, all hell breaks loose. The Maryland Deathfest crowd must have had quite the workout with this one. From grind freak-out to thrash opus, all the way into melodic epic, the song manages to take the best elements of the past few records and turn them into something truly special. To anyone who thought Hunt went soft on the much more melodic Hell is Empty and All the Devils are Here, “I Am the Wrath of Gods and the Desolation of the Earth” is a sonic hissy-fit with some of his most intense and throat lacerating vocals yet.
So many ideas are thrown into this record, raving about each would be a colossal waste of time and space. “But wait,” you might ask. “Wasn’t that a problem with Anaal’s last couple records? Why would I want to hear a sonic collage of influences that might end up sounding like a mess?” The answer, briefly, is good songwriting. Where past releases often felt like a hob-gobble of sonic ideas without a constructed blueprint, Black Widow is strong-willed and nearly flawless. Kenney alternate’s from D-beat mayhem to melodic balladry with the ease of a snake on “More Fire Than Blood,” while “The Unbearable Filth of the Soul” and “So Be It” lay the Björler Bros./Lindberg influences on his sleeve for all to see.
Kids in 20 years are going to find this record and drop their jaws in horror. The power and ferocity of the Black Widow is endless and merciless. Go listen to this.