Anaal Nathrakh: Codex Necro album review
When you zoom out, the history of extreme metal feels like an arms race. Black Sabbath wrote the urtext, Motörhead made it more rowdy, Metallica and Slayer made it faster, Death made it more brutal, Mayhem made it more sinister, and so on. Anaal Nathrakh, the Birmingham duo of vocalist VITRIOL (aka Dave Hunt) and multi-instrumentalist Irrumator (Mick Kenney), fit right into this arc, but they also sought to blow it up completely. Their debut in 2001 The Necro Codex, which received a new 20th anniversary reissue, pushed sonic extremes in uncomfortable and provocative ways that had no clear history. Their sound was a nightmare hybrid of black metal, industrial music, grindcore, digital hardcore and IDM.
Like punk before it, electronic music developed alongside metal in the ’80s and’ 90s. Metal’s obsession with musical virtuosity and its tendency towards closed hermeticism meant that as the electronic scene exploded in popularity. creativity, relatively few extreme metal bands have embraced it as an influence. Anaal Nathrakh was an exception. Where many drummers pride themselves on playing at superhuman speed, Anaal Nathrakh reveled in writing parts that no human drummer could attempt. “There is nothing to say that we could never have a drummer, if a sufficiently necrotic and unspeakable individual became available,” Hunt told the Chronicles of chaos zine in 2002, and it looked like a challenge. (They have since welcomed a handful of drummers into the live lineup, although their records’ drums remain scheduled.)
By breaking free from the confines of flesh and blood, Anaal Nathrakh has opened the door to a whole galaxy of possibilities. They weren’t the first metal band to use electronics — Fear Factory and Ministry were the first to innovate, and the only album by Norwegian band Thorns from the same year as The Necro Codex is another powerful collision between black metal and industrial music. But few bands of the genre have so fully embraced the potential of computerized sounds, a sonic element that can push an already horrible song into more painful places.
Both in the maximalism of his ideas and in the punitive and shattering production, The Necro Codex is one of the most extreme metal albums of the 21st century. The drum machine, as promised, hammers with an impossible intensity. Humans have imitated these parts on stage, but their live drums have never sounded so deliberately insane. Kenney’s guitars and synths are covered in distortion and merged into a mechanized step, sometimes becoming indistinguishable from one another. Hunt’s heartbreaking voice is the epitome of angst, and it’s treated so much that he looks like a Cronenbergian cyborg, crying for a merciful death.
Anaal Nathrakh’s reputation as a creepy group begins with The Necro Codex. The album’s ethos taken to the extreme manifests itself in some legitimately unsettling moments: The first time Hunt’s strangled howl entered the opening of the album “The Supreme Necrotic Audnance”, the barked command of ” Die on your knees! ” from “Submission is for the weak”, the full minute of electronics and seasickness Witch Blair-like field recordings that end the album. As they strayed on subsequent albums from the sound of The Necro Codex, this sonic terror remains the key to their work.
A lot of thrill of The Necro Codex sees Hunt and Kenney find ways to make all of this blood-curdling horror fun. The aforementioned “submission is for the weak” is a perverse motivation. For a song whose lyrics put the listener in the victim’s shoes, the music delivers truly stimulating riffs. The most daring song is “Paradigm Shift – Annihilation,” which kicks off in a whirling black metal vortex before moving onto the dance floor, with a breakbeat straight out of the ’90s IDM. convincing the difference between Aphex Twin and Darkthrone, you operate in thin air.
With the original album, Anaal Nathrakh reissued Total Fucking Necro, a collection of chaotic pre-LP demos. Taken as a whole, the music paints the image of a group standing on the edge of a cliff, inventing itself with reckless abandon. They don’t look like a group that could settle into a long, steady career. But over the next two decades The Necro Codex, they have become precisely that. Hunt and Kenney gave up their pseudonyms, released 11 solid to very good albums, and established themselves as a live band of killers after an early career aversion to taking the stage. But The Necro Codex will forever live in a reality where none of this seems likely. It still seems so subversive, strange and terrifying.
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