Photos by James Proctor
Formed in 1999 in Birmingham in the UK, the sound of Anaal Nathrakh can be hard to define. Often quoted under the banner of “extreme” metal, they have been had elements of industrial death metal, black metal, grind core, and blackened death metal. This mix has long divided listeners, and won a devoted fan base that has followed through the various sound changes of each album. Known for songs with eye opening titles such as ‘Blood Eagles Carved On The Backs Of Innocents’, I Wish I Could Vomit Blood On You … …People’ and ‘We Will F**cking Kill You’ they can seem a bit intimidating to the extreme metal outsider. But they have quickly become known for their hard core intensity. Each album brings something new, but the hard and fast in your face nature of each song has remained unrelenting. They have also become known for the sonically ferocious experience that is their live shows. When they played as part of the Hymns Of The Dead Showcase at Dark Mofo in Hobart in 2017, They blew the other acts (including headliner Taake) out of the water. Described as a true old school metal show the songs came hard and fast, and the show became legendary. They also are known for allowing crowd surfing which adds to the infamy of the Anaal Nathrakh pit. This current tour was to be their first headlining tour of Australia and the announcement was met with anticipation and excitement. As the crowd slowly builds in Max Watts on this summers evening, that anticipation and excitement intensify. The crowd is a mix of fans of all ages, and from the time the doors open the crowd is sizeable.
The first band on the bill is Melbournes Suldusk. How to describe Suldusk? An acoustic but threateningly heavy mix of doom tinged blackened ‘neo-folk’ that evokes images of dark magic performed in a first. Hand played drums, guitar and a haunting cello provide the sonic back drop. The music is intriguing, slow and at times mournful. Both passionate and oppressively heavy, the sound redefines atmospheric. Many in the audience are familiar with the band and keen to catch them again. Those new to Suldusk are quickly won over. The set is more of a performance, vocalist Emily Highfield switching between a beautiful melodic singing style and a deep metal growl, creating a unique experience that draws you in to the powerful lyrics. Highfield is also extremely talented with a broad range, and she is engaging to watch as she gives her all to each sound and song. Each note is like a thread in a tapestry that tells a story, the overall performance something dark and unique that captures the heart and imagination. The audience is enthralled. This isn’t your average metal band, Suldusk are entirely so much more. By the end of the set the audience is engaged and cheering for more. They have set the tone for the evening, and anticipation is high.
Next up on the bill is Melbournes Hadal Maw. Less than a decade old, this band has become well known in the local live music scene. They launch into their set with no pre-amble, blasting the audience with their take on melodic tech-death metal. Lead singer Sam Dillon is engaging, his performance energetic yet brutal. The bands set is tight and well rehearsed, but there is a rawness that appeals to the audience. The fast paced nature of each song picks up the energy of the crowd as they head bang along. As the guitars build and crash, and the drums pound and roll, each song hits like a dagger to the heart. Hadal Maw know how to work a crowd. Its not easy to draw your average metal punter from the bar to the stage but these guys do it well. The energy is high and the band have won the audience over.
The third band to play have become well known in recent years. Local boys Hybrid Nightmares have developed their own following, notably headlining Hell On The Bay and opening for the notorious Cradle Of Filth and the legendary Ihsahn. Their stage shows have become known for providing that ‘little bit more’ of a performance. Many in the crowd are already fans. The microphone stand is in the shape of the bands ‘Obelisk” symbol, a theme that permeates their music and visuals. The bands blackened extreme metal sound is woven with sci-fi elements yet they never lose an ounce of sonic brutality. The crowd is already enthusiastic and the band whip them into a further frenzy. Each song brings something different but showcases well the level of talent in this band. Frontman Loki is an engaging performer, his onstage banter winning over the audience as he draws them in with his extreme growl. The guitars are a force to be reckoned with, technically brilliant but with that raw metal edge that fans of the genre seek out. The drumming is a fast paced assault that never relents, and a pit begins to form. You know you own the crowd at a metal show when they open up the pit. The set is one of the best the band has ever performed and the crowd screams the house down in appreciation. Its no wonder big things are happening for the HN boys.
The crowd is enthusiastic and worked up. The excitement is palpable. The stage is set for a good old fashioned extreme metal show and the audience cant wait. What follows exceeds expectations. As the band walks on stage the crowds is already shouting the house down. After a long build up, the waste no time hitting a hard pace with their set. The crowd is ready and they absolutely lose it. Each song is hard and fast, brutal and unrelenting. This is an old school style metal show of the type that got most of us into this type of music. And it is good! It quickly becomes clear why Anaal Nathrakh are more known for their live shows. They grab our attention and each song puts us through our paces. The set spans their extensive catalogue but flows well, and there is not a dull moment or bad note. The vocal performance of lead singer V.I.T.R.I.O.L is otherworldly and ferocious. Each lyric is sung and growled with an intensity rarely seen anymore. He is also a captivating frontman, his between song banter winning cheers and laughs from a crowd he now owns. Years of experience have led to a set that is one of the tightest sets this reviewer has ever heard.The pace is brain melting, the atmosphere total chaos. Its also a hell of a lot of fun. The pit is going off and the energy in the air is crackling. But there is a light hearted fun element woven through that many modern acts miss out on. The band an effort to engage and connect with the audience. The audience Gove back in spades.
The band have allowed crowd surfing at this show. It creates an experience we rarely get to see anymore. The show becomes almost interactive. Audience members head to the stage, interacting with members and creating an almost personal feel. The brutality returns as they launch themselves like meat rockets into an enthusiastic, if a little drunk, crowd. Some are caught and held aloft grandly. Others are swallowed into the seething mass of bodies. The pit is one of the liveliest I have seen in years. Even those on the outskirts are head banging and fist pumping. There is this feed back loop between band and audience that crackles and elevates each sing into an experience. Its a rare experience. There is a down to earth realness as the band plays, raw passion emanating from each member. The true heart and soul of extreme metal on display, the kind of gig that made us fall in love with the genre. A highlight is when they spot a young Melbourne man who had crowd surfed at their Dark Mofo show two years ago. Notable as this young man is blind and surfed with bis cane. They get the man to surf again and the crowd goes insane. The band play some of their more well known, well lived hits. More fans run to the stage to be apart of the show. This reviewer hasn’t had this much fun in years. No one wants this show to end. They gave back to the fans in a way few know how to do anymore. No gimmicks, just from the soul old fashioned pure metal. They made us part of the show. As the disperse to the bar, many of us can barely form a coherent sentence. We are spent but alive. The fans were sated and all critics were silenced. Tonight Anaal Nathrakh cements themselves as legends and gave this town an experience they will talk about for years.
Annal Nathrakh play Brisbane tonight, do not miss out!! Tickets here!