A great philosopher once said, 'Life is like a box a chocolates; you never know which one you're going to get', a truer statement couldn't have been uttered about Anaal Nathrakh's discography, whilst there has been sublime truffles and pralines there's also been more than a couple of fruit fondants and coconut infused travesties, lurking for unlucky victims.
In recent years, A.N. has seen an increase in operatic style vocals, core/djent inspired breakdowns, fewer memorable riffs and generally, less savagery. Fortunately "A New Kind of Horror" is not afflicted by these maladies and despite a few missteps is the most solid outing I've heard from these guys in some time.
In their nascent years, Nathrakh's first outputs were stellar "Total Fucking Necro", "When Fire Rains Down from the Sky", "Codex Necro" were all groundbreaking for their time, and the raw hateful energy that was infused within them gave promise to an underground that was saturated at the time with symphonic laden black metal. "Domine Non Es Dignus" lay the blueprint that A.N. would follow for years afterward, brutality interspersed with sweeping choral passages, further distilled by "Eschaton" this formula became their hallmark. However, as the years progressed the formula became tired, the operatic sections lost their splendor, the memorable soaring riffs fell from grace and it all got a bit pedestrian… until now.
Actually, "A New Kind of Horror" is not really all that new at all, it's more akin to 'horror revisited', the fire is back in the beast and is roaring in all its glory. The songs have been stripped of the grandiose tendencies they've accumulated and returned to unadulterated hate, there are no pretty riffs like the chorus from "Do Not Speak", no epic vocal passages like in "Between Shit and Piss We Are Born"; this is back to basics intensity as found on "When Fire Rains Down from the Sky". Now, as I mentioned above there are a few parts where things don't quite work, occasional clean vocal passages don't have the same effect as they have done in the past and there's still a few banal breakdown chugging riffs, yet for the most part the album hits all the right notes.
One of the challenges I've had with some of the more recent Nathrakh records is the pristine production, it has made things feel a bit too sanitary and to be honest, that hasn't changed, it's just that the sheer ferocity of the album makes such observations irrelevant, the ultra-modern production doesn't restrain the onslaught in any way. Worthy of particular praise is Dave Hunt's vocals, he truly lives up to his moniker of V.I.T.R.I.O.L., pushing his voice to the extreme, his hatred and distaste are palpable as it tears through the speakers. Throughout the album there are some subtle touches that embellish the tracks, whether they be choir samples, synth parts or more industrial elements, fortunately, they don't detract from the songs and serve to enhance them, most of the time at least.
There wasn't much I expected from this release and I'm pleasantly surprised, it appears there's life in the old dog yet. I can only hope that they can continue to find ways to create challenging music and push the envelope of extremity.
Reviewed by Dan Thaumitan