Hell Is Empty And All The Devils Are Here
posted on 10/2007 By:
It’s easy to become jaded as a metalhead. The focus on fastest-loudest-heaviest overstimulation and glut of similar-sounding bands can reduce even the most ardent fan to a sneering elitist (as anyone who’s frequented metal web forums can tell you), and frankly I’m no exception. That’s why I’m thankful as fuck for bands like Anaal Nathrakh. Where the vast majority of groups I come across writing for this site offer little more than temporary satisfaction, these British maniacs are amongst the hallowed few who can make me forget my desensitization to extreme music and compel me to bang my head like I’m fourteen and hearing Slayer for the first time all over again. With Hell Is Empty…And All The Devils Are Here, they’ve done just that for the fourth consecutive time, and are well on their way to cementing themselves as one of the greatest metal acts of our era.
Anaal Nathrakh are most often classified as a black metal band; they were never a particularly traditional example of the style and at this juncture become even less so (this means that you corpsepainted basement-dwelling Darkthrone fellators can get the fuck out now before your delicate sensibilities are offended). Like Eschaton before it, Hell Is Empty… is an even blend of mechanized death metal, bleakly epic melody, and the preposterously violent BM of The Codex Necro. Once again the band benefits immensely from a clear, loud, modern production—no muffled drums or buried ‘grym’ vox here, thankfully. Multi-instrumentalist virtuoso Mick Kenney (Mistress, Frost, Exploder…or should I call him ‘Irrumator?’) has stepped it up again with an even more diverse and surprisingly infectious exhibition of hyper-intense riffing, from the precision grooves of “The Final Absolution” to the grave blastbeaten trem melodies of “Lama Sabachthani,” as well as absolutely nailing some tastefully brief solos on tracks like “Screaming Of the Unborn.”
Talented as Kenney is, though, even he is a little upstaged by the absolutely jaw-dropping performance of Dave Hunt/V.I.T.R.O.I.L.. There is no doubt in my mind that this man is one of the best metal vocalists of all time. In a genre where every singer is trying to sound possessed, Hunt actually does it, and it sounds like all of Hell is erupting out of his lungs every time he opens his mouth here. Hunt’s performance too has grown more diverse, and it seems that he’s learned to generate just about every vocal tone imaginable with his barbed-wire lump of a larynx. From his trademark head-exploding scream to br00tal inward gutturals to a whole arsenal of bellows, growls, grunts, yelps and screeches, the guy can do it all. To top it off, the fucker can still do spot-on Ihsahn (Emperor) cleans, and the four tracks on Hell Is Empty… featuring his epic singing (“Der Hölle Rache Kocht In Meinem Herzen,” “Virus Bomb,” “The Final Absolution,” “Shatter the Empyrean”) are amongst the most fiendishly catchy on the album. Don’t think for a moment that Anaal Nathrakh has abandoned their famed causticity, though. One listen to the impossibly intense blast of hate that is pure-BM closer “Castigation and Betrayal” will bring you right back to the Codex Necro days, and’ll probably leave you wondering whether this band is even human (signs point to ‘shit no,’ says my heavy metal magic 8-ball).
I really can’t say enough good things about this band, and the only real criticism I can think of is that this isn’t quite as much of an evolution past Eschaton as I would’ve liked. Where most black metal bands simply settle for a goofily cliché ‘evil’ persona, Anaal Nathrakh have actually achieved an aesthetic of utter misanthropic hatred. More importantly, they’ve made hatred fucking rock. Remember the first time you heard a blastbeat? This’ll give you that grand old feeling again. When people use the term ‘extreme metal,’ this is what they should be talking about. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, fucking buy this.
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