What Are The Best Anaal Nathrakh Songs?
Welcome to a new weekly feature at The Monolith! We’ll be looking at the Top Ten of songs by one particular artist. Each week we will explore the music of a different artist across their entire discography and discuss their best songs. We’ll be working our way through the alphabet with a different band being selected for each letter (where applicable), before starting the alphabet again, but with different bands! The bands are selected through discussion and voting by The Monolith Staff and then the people who voted for the winning band are allowed to vote for the songs. Today’s Anaal Nathrakh list is comprised by Quigs, Orsaeth and Angel. Enjoy!
When it comes to lengthier discographies, it’s safe to say that Anaal Nathrakh from Birmingham, UK, have had a pretty good run. From their early beginnings as a raw black metal band through to their current melding of black metal, grindcore and industrial, not one of their albums can be written off as bad, or even filler. The duo, made up of instrumentalist Mick Kenney (aka Irrumator) and vocalist Dave Hunt (aka V.I.T.R.I.O.L.), have served up consistently strong offerings across their 7 albums over 14 years, the latest being Vanitas last year.
They both display a relentless work ethic, and a knack for writing compelling tunes; Kenney’s ability to craft riffs and program drums that merge black metal and grindcore elements is almost unparalled, and Hunt’s diverse harsh and clean vocal ranges set him apart from the rest of the extreme metal crowd. Eschewing the theatricality and ‘image’ that is usually attached to such extreme genres, their raison d’être is instead to hold a mirror up to society, exposing some of the darker corners in their inventively nihilistic lyrical themes, covering diverse topics involving Nostradamus, Hitler’s suicide and Thomas Hobbes to name a few.
Regardless of whether you’re a complete beginner, need a refresher course or just need an excuse to wax lyrical about your favourite Nathrakh tracks, we’ve created our list of the 10 best tracks to get into the band’s inaccessible yet captivating sound.
10. A Metaphor For The Dead – Vanitas
“A Metaphor For The Dead” is a unique song for Anaal Nathrakh. While many casual listeners have accused the band of refusing to expand outside of their set formula for songs, this song signifies a new shift in direction for the band. It turns up at the end of Vanitas and rounds out the album in a beautiful and unconventional way. Hunt has graced our ears with his incredible operatic vocals before, but never like this. The chorus is taken from the Italian opera Pagliacci and Hunt conquers those passages with an immense amount of nuance, range and power.
Musically, the song is atypically melodic for the band, infusing some surprisingly overt melodic death metal influences. What’s more, after the second chorus the song breaks away into dual guitar soloing for the last portion of the song. This extended guitar noodling is very unusual for the band, but it is a hopeful and powerful closer to a great album. As it slowly fades away, the listener wonders what this means for the future of Anaal Nathrakh. Will there next album see them expand even further upon their already perfected formula?
9. Do Not Speak – Domine Non Es Dignus
A classic live staple of the Anaal Nathrakh setlist, “Do Not Speak” was pretty much destined to be on this list. Starting with a sound clip from the film version of George Orwell’s 1984 (“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever”), the song launches into a furious riffing maelstrom, with well-executed blasting programmed drums underneath. Hunt’s demented shrieks and near-inhuman growls provide a perfect backdrop for the at-the-time completely unexpected cleanly-sung chorus, chanting the now-classic lines “With years of pain, frustration/Etched into granite face/Such joys they fade in memory/Do not speak!”.
The black metal guitar melody that accompanies this is simply wondrous, while the final crushing groove and overlapping cries of “Do not speak!” leave the song descending into madness by its close. A stand-out track from the album and one that paved the way for the Anaal Nathrakh we know and love today.
8. Satanarchrist – In The Constellation Of The Black Widow
The art of revisiting older material seems to be a trait among two types of bands: those who have run out of ideas and those who wish to re-imagine old ideas in a new light. Reworking this old track from their black metal days, Nathrakh inject a grindcore aesthetic and dense atmosphere of the album’s production, making a blistering update to a fan favourite. The simple yet compelling melodic line that emerges after the pseudo-spoken-word section is given a revamp, making it one of my personal favourite parts of Nathrakh’s discography.
This song bestrides both eras of the band succinctly, and while Hunt’s vocals have come a long way since the rasp he used before, there are still many recognizable elements from the band of old, particularly in the guitar work. Interestingly, the spoken-word section mentioned above is taken from Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, which has only fuelled the fans’ curiosity as to what the song itself may be about.
7. Between Shit & Piss We Are Born – Eschaton
From Anaal Nathrakh’s third album, Eschaton, “Between Shit and Piss We Are Born” is a grinding dive into misanthropy. The contempt for humanity is palpable, and it manifests in hard-hitting, concussive riffing and gruff-throated growls. This is an all-out war against the senses, but still manages to work in some more groove-oriented passages that Anaal Nathrakh would later make a far larger part of their works. Again, we see the great variety in Hunt’s vocal abilities, bringing deranged screams, demonic growls, and a more yell/growl approach in addition to his unnerving clean vocals.
The chorus contains a guitar melody that seems at odds with the wall of assault that makes of the rhythm guitar, and it transitions into a desperate solo for the final stretch of the track. “Between Shit and Piss We Are Born” engages the most primal, misanthropic parts of your mind that wish for the complete annihilation of the human species and wrenches out your ghastly fears of the apocalypse from the deepest abysses of your soul.
6. The Final Absolution – Hell Is Empty And All The Devils Are Here
Many of Anaal Nathrakh’s tracks hit hard with their groove, but this one goes in hard from the start with a memorable neck-stretching groove that then switches up to a higher blasting notch for the chorus, both of which are equally likely to become imprinted in the brain. Aided by a cleaner production on Hell Is Empty… as a whole, the low-end of this song is a real speaker-tester when cranked up high. Hunt’s vocals, mostly of the guttural variety in the verses, convey his pure contempt for the song’s subject as he rasps “You will atone for your crimes”, while the haunting chorus describes the misled millions that followed him.
The subject, as Hunt has stated multiple times, is Adolf Hitler and his suicide in his bunker near the end of World War Two, the title being a play on words of Hitler’s “Final Solution” extermination plans and his own (lack of) redemption by shooting himself. While WW2 is far from a novel topic for metal, this direct attack on his cowardly suicide is nonetheless a compelling diatribe 62 years later when Hell Is Empty… was released, wrapped in a thundering musical context.
5. When The Lion Devours Both Dragon And Child – Eschaton
This song seems to have been a sleeper hit among listeners of the ‘Thrakh. While Eschaton is by no means regarded as a bad album, it seems to have been lumped into the “whole-album-listening” category, so aside from the classic opening two-fer the remaining numbers can pass by in a blur. That should not be the case for this track. Featuring one of Eschaton’s more varied extreme vocal performances from Hunt, some fantastic riffing of the black and grind variety from Kenney and a soaring chorus, this song deserves a spot in any list of Nathrakh’s best. The chorus alone marks a highlight of the album, with its pummelling drums, melodic guitar lines and Hunt’s powerful singing. However, what really drew me in was the lyrical concept.
Two parts nihilistic twisting of the Bible’s Book of Job and one part Nietzsche’s Parable of the Madman, the result is a grand metaphor. As I understand it, the lion is mankind’s urge to overcome/destroy, the dragon represents established values, and the child is the desire and ability to create something new. Hunt himself explains, “to achieve something radically new, you need the lion; you need to be able to assume control and overcome oppression. But if that ability to destroy becomes dominant and destroys even the hope of finding something new after itself, it becomes less the brave and noble instinct to overcome and more like rampant egotism. The title is a point after the stage of victory, when all hope has been destroyed and the once noble ideal has become something terrible.”