November In Metal, Part III: Anaal Nathrakh, Isis, Kylesa and Nidingr
In-fucking-sane. It’s the most natural way to describe the duo that makes up Anaal Nathrakh. They are two guys that look like your friendly neighborhood computer programmers that create what I like to call the most listenable unlistenable music ever made. For years and years I had heard about the nutjobs called The Locust. The Locust play noise. Noise so fucking crazy that it’s simply an impossible task to sit down and listen to them for even a few moments. Anaal Nathrakh is the only group I’ve ever heard that comes even remotely close to that level of insanity.
I would have never believed it if you had told me years ago that these guys would be my current favorite band but that they are. So I hold them in high regard and with that comes high expectations. Any Anaal Nathrakh album is based in grindcore with a blanket of black metal draped over top. Add programed drums, a wall of noise and some of the most ungodly screaming you’ve ever heard (which may or may not be words) and you have music that is beyond anything you’ve ever heard before. This will be too harsh for 98% of the population but once you get it (if you ever really get it), you can’t help but be enthralled by a group that sounds like nothing else out there.
Over the years, vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L (aka Dave Hunt) has mixed brutal vocals and piggy grunts with intense screaming and over the last few records has started actually singing in a clean voice more often, adding a new element to the mix. And over the last few records they’d inexplicably included tracks in what I believe is German, French and Spanish.
Here’s the thing. I could write for days on this band and it still wouldn’t prepare you for the onslaught. In the press release Hunt called Vanitas, “like someone showing you what the end of the world is like via the medium of a thousand hammers soaked in acid.” That probably isn’t far off. The only thing that really properly can tell you what an Anaal Nathrakh record is like, is to listen to it for yourself.
Vanitas is a great record. All of their albums are. Even so, there’s just something that’s not hitting me quite right about this one. Maybe it’s the hint of metalcore in “You Can’t Save Me So Stop Fucking Trying” or the fact that after seven LP’s it’s still pretty much impossible to tell one track from another. But then there’s the 30 second scream at the end of “Forging Toward the Sunset” that simply floors me.
If you’re a fan of extreme music and have never heard of these guys, listen to The Codex Necro from 2001, then Hell Is Empty and the Devils Are Here from ’07 before moving on to this or last year’s Passion. If you can swallow just one of these records, you also may find yourself with a new favorite band. Do it now because one of these dudes is bound to have a heart attack on stage or in the studio, sooner rather than later.
Isis may have broken up in 2010 but the releases from the vault keep on coming. First came a new live release that was also included in a box set which houses the other five live albums the group released over the years and now Aaron Turner has pilfer the vault again for a compilation of demos, alternate takes and rarities to continue to get people thinking about Isis.
The package contains two CD’s about an hour in length each as well as a DVD with five videos. If you get the vinyl version you not only get the 14 songs on the CDs but five extra demos as well! The demos range from classic Isis tracks like “Carry” and “Weight” from Oceanic in ’02 to ones from their final LP Wavering Radiant in ’09. The rarities include both their covers from their 2000 EP, Sawblade (“Streetcleaner” by Godflesh and “Hand of Doom” from Sabbath) as well as “Way Through Woven Branches” and “Pliable Foe” – their final two studio tracks which came out as part of a split with the Melvins. There is also the title track, a short 2 minute instrumental which I’m supposing is an unreleased track.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of demos, though it is cool to hear what a song began like and I’m also a much bigger fan of earlier Isis works when they were harder and less post-rock so some of this doesn’t interest me very much. It’s also the very first Isis record that I’ve heard that didn’t have a perfect flow to it. There was obviously an attempt here to put it in some sort of order that made sense but it flows as you would expect a compilation to, sometimes fine, sometimes awkwardly.
I’m never going to turn down a new Isis record of any sorts and Temporal is certainly worth a listen but just like 90% of the odds and ends discs out there, this is a release for die hards.
I got this album about a month ago and I told the fine PR personnel that of course I would review it, it’s Kylesa after all. Then I stepped back and realized that I’ve never heard even one damn thing from them despite being a pretty well known band at this point. As a metalhead, I’m really unsure how that happened and I know I should be ashamed of myself. So anyway, it seems a little odd for the first Kylesa material I’m hearing and talking about to be an odds-n-ends disc.
There’s one new track on the record, a fantastic number called “End Truth” but “Between Science and Sound II” and “Bottom Line II” might as well be the first version instead of an alternate mix for me. So before I embarrass myself talking about things I clearly have no business doing, let me just say this album does flow better than the Isis compilation. The band took more than a year to put this together and wanted specifically to make sure it sounded like a solid cohesive record from start to finish (which it does). While the new track is cool, the other real highlights are “111 Degree Heat Index” (a new version of “110 Degree Heat Index”) and the punkish “Paranoid Tempo.” I do however find it weird that there’s both an “Intro” and “Bass Salts” that are only :57 seconds long – I mean, who keeps :57 second instrumentals in their vault for future use?
Anyway, I have nothing at all to compare this to. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing but this record is certainly good enough on its own to make me want to check them out now.
I really wanted to make sure I reviewed this Norwegian band’s third LP in the same post as Anaal Nathrakh because there are many points during this record that they remind me of a slowed down version of them. Now of course, everything is slowed down in comparison so I’m not talking ballads here.
There’s an immediate attraction to this album because it stands out from the crowd. Cpt.Estrella Grasa has a perfect voice for this type of music and sings partially clean, partially grimey but mostly evil sounding to go along with some fiercely unique riffs.
There’s this weird thing with Greatest of Deceivers where every time I thought the pace would pick up, they would slow down the tempo. And every time I figured it was going to slow down, they tossed in some quick, memorable riffage. Nidingr have this knack for keeping the rawness of the black metal in tact while still adding melodic riffs into the mix – fuck, “Pure Pale Gold” is almost toe-tappin’ at times.
Greatest of Deceivers is filled to the brim with fantastic songwriting and challenging riffs that push black metal another step forward. This is definitely worth your time.
Albums currently on the potential ten best of 2012 list:
Baroness, Yellow & Green
Christian Mistress, Possession
Denial of God, Death and the Beyond
Deserted Fear, My Empire
Forgotten Tomb, …and Don’t Deliver Us From Evil
Goatwhore, Blood for the Master
Human Toilet, Human Toilet
Jorn, Bring Heavy Rock To the Land
Mongrels Cross, The Sins of Aquarius
OSI, Fire Make Thunder
Satanic Bloodspraying, At the Mercy of Satan
Terrorizer, Hordes of Chaos
Tiamat, The Scarred People
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Alter
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum
Winterfylleth, The Threnody of Triumph
Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light