Hyperbole has always victimized music. Heavy metal bears more scars than most, easily lending itself to sweeping generalization and overblown metaphor. The end result is a tendency among heavy metal fans to qualify the genre in increasingly outlandish terms, always looking for the next big thing in the realm of extremity.
With this in mind, Anaal Nathrakh's Passion is that rare album which justifies even the most absurd hype behind it. In a mere 36 minutes, it doesn't so much push the envelope of brutality as it does set the standard for it. Harrowing and deranged, it draws that line in the sand for other bands that asks, "Will you dare be as violent as us?" And in that challenge, they've captured the essence of heavy metal's visceral primacy with an identity all their own.
For starters, Anaal Nathrakh unleashes a staggering amount of sonic devastation for a band comprised of only two members. The group's guitarist/bassist/drum machine programmer Irrumator, for starters, has perfected a formula for abrasive and frantic metal that stabs with spastic bursts of aggression. Anaal Nathrakh's singer V.I.T.O.R.O.L., meanwhile, may be the most unhinged vocalist in music. The man clearly goes to the darkest reaches of his being for inspiration, and the final product is a cacophony of noises listeners won't believe emanate from a human. When paired, this formidable duo produces music among the most savage and fast in the entire world.
There's a method to such madness. Though most will find their first exposure to Anaal Nathrakh overwhelming, most can at least appreciate their well-honed talent and creativity. After all, artistic expression like this is only possible with the highest level of dedication, right? To wit, the album's title turns this notion on its head – the Passion on display here is paradoxically energy positively channeled and an examination of the intensity with which humanity can destroy, obsess, and hate.
Opener "Volenti Non Fit Iniuria" is proof positive of this duality. In a moment of restraint rare for the band, it opens with washes of dingy noise and gloomy, spectral guitar notes. From there, it careens over the edge with chilling melodies and crushing blastbeat drums, only to come roaring back with V.I.T.O.R.O.L.'s manic howls. It's business as usual after that, Anaal Nathrakh switching between bludgeoning, stop-start guitar riffs and passages of endlessly marauding metal.
"Drug-F*cking Abomination" is even more of an onslaught, initially marching through militant, stomping metal only to let loose with a melancholy, buzzing guitar line among the album's best. What follows is less a song and more an instrumental, the somber melodies providing a chilling counterpoint to V.I.T.O.R.O.L.'s wordless wailing. When he does burst into throat-tearing, coherent screams, it renders the poignant, gloomy chorus all the more powerful. The resulting contrast is cataclysmic in scope.
"Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria" goes right for the jugular with a blitzkrieg of blastbeat drumming and chaotic screeching. It's a percussion carpet-bombing likely to leave even the sturdiest listeners reeling. "Le Diabolique Est L'Ami Du Simple Mal," meanwhile, lets the band's formidable speed-picked guitar notes speak for themselves. Swarming around like a horde of hornets, they conceal a stark, icy melody that gives the song's chorus a cutting edge.
"Locus of Damnation" hits like a speed boxer's punches, blazing by in 60 seconds with overwhelming guitar grooves. "Tod Huetet Uebel" proves much meatier, kicking off with sinister guitar notes that slice and dice over pulverizing percussion. The tune's trump card is V.I.T.O.R.O.L.'s cringe-worthy shrieks – nauseatingly high, they're a torrent of larynx vomiting that must be heard to be believed.
"Paragon Pariah" offers little relief from the preceding insanity. It mixes grinding guitar melodies with frantic, barely-contained drumming and snarling, rabid vocals. The bleak but moving singing during the chorus, meanwhile, is a moment of steely beauty amid the turmoil.
"Who Thinks of the Executioner?" explodes into existence with bulldozing drum rolls before demonstrating how deftly Anaal Nathrakh balances terrifying shifts in tempo. On the one hand, most of the song barrels past with the speed of an aerial bombardment. On the other, it also boasts fierce breakdowns among the most battering assaults of the album.
"Ashes Screaming Silence" attacks in much the same way, dropping such a barrage of breakdowns on listeners that it sounds like staccato gunfire. When the band gives into frenzy, the final charge perfectly sets up a second wave of aural clubbing so immense it could be used for riot control. "Portrait of the Artist," then, seems like a fitting coda given it's nothing but seething static and noise that worms its way into eardrums, unnerving music fans until the bitter end.
Anaal Nathrakh's latest record is an explosive exercise in evolving heavy metal. Breathless in its brevity and relentless in its rage, it predicts the genre has a furious future ahead. Give in to Passion and get this now.
Volenti Fit Iniuria
Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria
Le Diabolique Est L'Ami Du Simple Mal
Locus of Damnation
Tod Huetet Uebel
Who Thinks of the Executioner?
Ashes Screaming Science
Portrait of the Artist
Mark Hensch is the editor of Thrashpit. His writing also appears on his Heavy Metal Hensch blog at The Washington Times.