Anaal Nathrakh's name mentioned in metal magazines and websites a few times in the past couple of years, but never really paid much attention. With a name like that I assumed they were probably some extreme metal band with silly corpse painted faces and lo-fi production that wouldn't appeal much to me. Late last year, Decibel Magazine put out a special issue that listed their Top 100 greatest metal albums of the last decade. Being the music geek that I am, I studied the list closely to see if any of the albums listed might be glaring omissions from my collections. Coming in at #34 was Anaal Nathrakh's 2001 release The Codex Necro. The description of the album really intrigued me, so I decided to take a plunge into the unknown and use some of the precious dollars from an Amazon gift certificate I had been given and purchase the album. This was one of those albums where it was love at first listen. I didn't need to spend time with it to get it....I got it right away.
In metal journalism, "soundtrack to the apocalypse" is a popular description for many a band's sound and/or release(s), but in the case of Anaal Nathrakh, it is actually 110% accurate. They are the audio equivalent of a big budget Hollywood blockbuster about the end times except in this movie the acting (musicianship) is of a caliber that it isn't all special effects without any genuine heart and soul. After having my face melted off by The Codex Necro, I immediately picked up three of their other albums: In The Constellation Of The Black Widow (2009), Hell Is Empty And All The Devils Are Here (2007) and Domine Non Es Dignus (2004). While I don't have their complete discography (yet), my understanding is that I am only missing one proper studio album, Eschaton (2006) which I plan on picking up sometime in the not so distant future.
The band has evolved over their releases from sheer grindcore-esque brutality on The Codex Necro to more "melody" and clean vocals in the spirit of black metal on In The Constellation Of The Black Widow. Again, I haven't heard the album that is smack dab in the middle of the five studio albums, but the progression seemed natural, fluid and most importantly, highly original. I would recommend this band to anyone who enjoys extreme metal and is looking for a band that can't simply be described as sounding like band A combined with band B.