In 100 years the course of humanity has traveled a great many roads, these include incredible feats of strength, endurance, intelligence, understanding and perseverance. While these traits are generally positive, they have their dark side as apprised on the upcoming album “A New Kind of Horror” by British Extreme Metal duo Anaal Nathrakh.
1918 was the year World War 1 ended. It was contemporaneously described as the “War to end all wars”, the event that heralded in a new kind of horror which the aforementioned character qualities were put to the test for the first time in the modern age of warfare. The result was an estimated thirty-seven million civilian and military deaths incurred across more than 20 nations.
Lyrical and musical content take heavy inspiration from this event as well as poems written by soldiers present in the trenches, in particular the bone chilling poem by Wilfred Owens “Dulce et Decorum Est”. It then compares those events to the modern day political climate and ponders whether humanity might look back on our time with curiosity, will we ask if the grief we are causing ourselves as a species has been worth it. Lastly, the writings of D.H Lawrence (which, to be honest at the time of writing I haven’t explored in great detail yet I’m keen to though) and a 1998 thesis written by Phillip Best (of electronic group Consumer Electronics) entitled “Apocalypticism in the Fiction of William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard and Thomas Pynchon” which is an enthralling read.
Before listening to this album I was presented with this opening line from the group’s press release written by vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L. , “This is not a happy album, it is bitter, vengeful, sarcastic, sardonic, violent, terrified and horrified, terrifying and horrifying in equal measure. Above all, it is human, and all that that entails.” Never have I read such an accurate and self aware appraisal of one’s own composition. “A New Kind of Horror” is without exaggeration, all that is described. The thematic setup erected in album opener “The Road To…” gives way to the cyclonic ambiance of terrorism, confusion and cerebral assault of the compulsive and aptly named “Obscene as Cancer”. The blast beats, irreverent war horns, tremolo picking and distorted screaming juxtaposes an epic chorus that borrows lines from Owen’s poem. The mood of this horrific paralysis is bookended by “The Reek of Fear” which continues the thematic elements and expands on them with synths and high pitched singing. It was as though this piece is written to stink of fear sonically and in that it succeeds triumphantly.
After the smell subsides, we are met with “Forward!” which breaks from the chaos of the preceding tracks and adopts the razor sharp, grooving exhortation to engage the enemy. It evokes images of the blood hungry mentality encouraged/demanded of soldiers and compares this circumstance to aspects of today’s life. Inspiration is drawn from the poem “MCMXIV” by Phillip Larkin in the verses of one listens closely enough.
The remainder of the album continues to express critical variations on the themes touched upon, returning to the horrid grinding in “New Bethlehem/Mass Death Features” and “The Apocalypse is About You”, then grooving to the catchy tracks “Vi Coactus”, “Mother of Satan” and “The Horrid Strife” and finally the eclectic “Are We Fit for Glory Yet? (The War to End Nothing)”.
The group strikes a careful balance of claustrophobic and catchy throughout the experience while employing a pastiche of black/death metal, industrial, electronic, grindcore, growls, screams, yelling, operatic and (sparsely used) clean vocals. The sonic pallet used is expensive and avoids lingering too long on any one sound which allows for a sort of safety within the chaos. This, as well as the album’s overall length, makes analysing the works an engaging pursuit especially from a literary and scholarly point of view. The character qualities I mentioned at the beginning of the review are worn by the group to the effect of creating something, in addition to V.I.T.R.I.O.L’s description, that is inspiring, beautiful, cautionary, reflective, carefully assembled and erudite within its abhorrence.
It takes many listens and a lot of engagement to truly appreciate the scope and scale of “A New Kind of Horror”, ultimately it is worth all of the time that can be afforded to it.
Grab your copy of “A New Kind of Horror” HERE