After 20 years, Brummie noise- mongers Anaal Nathrakh’s 11th record embraces a slightly cleaner, brighter sound than usual. Whilst the duo have always been keen to watch the world burn, now that it finally is, they sound rather pleased with themselves, forgoing much of their earlier nihilism for a more victorious vibe.
Don’t worry, this is still Nathrakh we’re talking about and the grinding Thus, Always, To Tyrants and blistering, blackened onslaught Beyond Words are just as filthy and mindfuckingly abrasive as you’d expect, but tracks like the stirring Create Art, Though The World May Perish have a far more triumphant and curiously optimistic quality, emphasising galloping Iron Maiden-esque guitar harmonies and soaring clean vocals. The gruesomely titled Libidinous (A Pig With Cocks In Its Eyes), meanwhile, alternates between bouncy, djent-esque grooves and bombastic, arena-sized melodeath riffage, seasoned with glass-shattering King Diamond-style falsetto.
Unfortunately, this subtle change in tone doesn’t fully mask how formulaic the band’s sound has become over the last few albums. Granted, it’s a formula no one else is using and they still sound nothing like their peers, but the spontaneous, chaotic quality of their earlier work has now been wholly replaced by a more rigid, mechanical approach, with many of the big melodic choruses feeling shoehorned in out of a sense of duty rather than imaginative songwriting – the jarring, histrionic title track being a prime culprit. The most effective tracks here are the ones that eschew the blast-chorus-blast-chorus-breakdown template entirely, like the genuinely epic closer, Requiem, which bolsters the band’s signature blackened grind with vast choir swells before giving way to an unexpectedly mournful doomy outro.
Endarkenment is still a solid, reliably brutal offering, but it would be good to see Anaal Nathrakh challenging themselves more and exploring these more unconventional structures in the future.