One of the most interesting, forward-thinking takes on black metal

Since their inception in 1999, Birmingham, England’s Anaal Nathrakh have provided listeners with one of the most interesting, forward-thinking takes on black metal.

Through their career, they’ve gone from playing raw black metal, to a finely honed blend of industrial, black metal and grindcore. Pursuing each release with increasing vitriol, and an ever pervasive sense of avant-garde (in this sense, they remind me of fellow UK black metal experimentalists the Meads of Asphodel). The Whole of the Law sees them refine this pursuit further.

When listening to this to review, I tended to take it all as one. That’s not to say that the individual tracks blend together, or are forgettable. It’s merely that this record has so many peaks and valleys, so many great moments. Notable is the trilogy of songs beginning with ‘Hold Your Children Close’, as, while the album as a whole seems to have a subtle baroque influence, it is these tracks in which it is most noticeable. Likewise, tracks like ‘Depravity Favours the Bold’, with its foundation solidly rooted in black metal, and ‘Extravaganza!’, with so much going on that it more than lives up to its name (inclusive of some vocals that sound like King Diamond on acid) ensure that at no point throughout its runtime, does The Whole of the Law feel repetitive. Likewise, the traditional metal-highlighted guitar passages in ‘On Being a Slave’ combine with those anthemic vocals, and the ending sound collage to create a perfect introduction to the final two tracks of the album, which see the industrial influences positioned at the forefront.

The Whole of the Law also contains two bonus tracks, both Iron Maiden’s ‘Powerslave’ and the Specials’ ‘Man at C&A’ sound as you’d expect them to sound: the originals filtered through the lens of Anaal Nathrakh’s unique depravity. An entertaining way to end the record, serving as a reminder of the real finality of ‘Of Horror and the Black Shawls’.

Anaal Nathrakh have crafted quite the discography for themselves, and The Whole of the Law is an engaging, enthralling listen that, for this reviewer, reaches the lofty heights previously scaled by the likes of 2007’s Hell Is Empty, and All The Devils Are Here. I’ll be watching for their next release with much intrigue.

  1. The Nameless Dread
  2. Depravity Favors the Bold
  3. Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion
  4. We Will Fucking Kill You
  5. …so We Can Die Happy
  6. In Flagrente Delicto
  7. And You Will Beg for Our Secrets
  8. Extravaganza!
  9. On Being a Slave
  10. The Great Spectator
  11. Of Horror, and the Black Shawls
  12. Powerslave
  13. Man at C&A