If heavy metal is left field music then surely Anaal Nathrakh are on the very left wing of the left field. For the last ten years or so they have consistently challenged perceptions, not to mention ear drums, of what is aurally possible. Their sense of the extreme, their relentless pursuit of punishing sounds, often done with a self regarding glint in their nihilisitic eye has been an exemplary lesson in uncomprising brutality.
Look, I know that Anaal Nathrakh are never going to be the band to accompany my Sunday morning of coffee and newspapers but one thing I do demand of artists is a sense of progress and development. Passion, their latest record, should be the point at which their art makes the breakthrough: not to the mainstream (they will never be that) but at least to solidify and consolidate their reputation within the cult extreme music circles that they operate.
I know that some people are going to love this record. Coming at this new you might be enthralled by their dark, grindcore and misanthropy. Get out your check list, extreme music fans: yes, there’s plenty of indecipherable vocals, tons of screeching guitars and a thunderstorm of double kick drumming that sounds like a herd of galloping elephants on speed. However, to these ears, there is something of the pub bore about this record.
At some point, you either need to put up or shut up. In Anaal Nathrakh’s case, although there’s an attempt to put up- the first two tracks of Passion hint at a sense of melody and alternate percussive rhythms that they really haven’t hinted at to date- but the rest of the record is a bit, “yes, we can see what you did there”. The driving relentlessness is not enveloping or all consuming, an aural maelstrom within which to lose yourself: on the contrary, Perhaps it’s intentional but Passion, is, ironically, cold unapproachable and boring.
On the plus side, there’s a really clean production and sound to the record that gives insight into the compression of ideas and dynamics that the band want to play with. On the downside, it reveals the limits of their ambition in ways that their earlier dirtier records successfully masked.
Passion is the sound of the stroppy teenager eternally stamping their feet because they’ve been asked to tidy their room, the classroom fool seeking attention through indiscriminate swearing. Drug Fucking Abomination, Paragon Paraiah? This is not even good enough to be bad sixth form poetry: it’s all a bit obvious, all a bit predictable and all very disappointing.