Anaal Nathrakh - Desideratum
Metal Blade
Black Metal
11 songs (40:59)
Release year: 2014
Anaal Nathrakh, Metal Blade
Reviewed by Goat

'Desideratum', n. Something that is needed or wanted, considered highly desirable or necessary.

Or so the dictionaries tell you, at least, but whether Anaal Nathrakh's latest full-length (an unbelievable eighth) counts as necessary is a question that will give pause to many. The British duo have made a name and many fans for themselves with their coruscating mixture of Napalm Death-esque grind and black metal that sounds like Emperor in a bad mood. Yet around the time of 2009's In The Constellation of the Black Widow significant questions were being raised about how the band had gotten a little too attached to those catchy choruses, and a little too repetitive – and neither problem has been solved four albums and six years later. The central fire and brimstone, the impending and deserved destruction of humanity that Anaal Nathrakh preach has turned from a horrific eventuality into a thematic gimmick. They're the boy who cried wolf, only they've been doing it since 2001 when The Codex Necro first blew eardrums out. And what is even worse, is that they're nowhere near as good at it any more.

I count myself as a fan of Anaal Nathrakh and their formula, but few would deny that the formula is getting pretty damn tired now. Arguably, they've been going downhill since their highpoint, 2004's Domine Non Es Dignus, with diminishing returns each time, but they've written solid enough songs and played them with enough passion to keep us listening. Desideratum is a real stumble, however. The songs are duller, more repetitive, and the blackened fury has been toned down in favour of a slightly increased focus on the electronics, the band working with British 'electronic music production and sound design project' Gore Tech to create electronic sections of songs, which sometimes work well and sometimes don't. There's nothing like Morbid Angel's hilariously woeful Ilud Divinum Insanus, because Gore Tech clearly know what they're doing, but the effect does reduce the intensity and will jarr listeners who prefer Anaal Nathrakh at their most organic.

The rot begins with opening instrumental Acheronta Movebimus, which is well put-together but downright groovy with riffs that are borderline djent-ish. First track proper Unleash brings the band's usual sturm und drang, but like so many of their tracks of late, follows a sub-Do Not Speak structure with an all-too-typical clean chorus and none of the emotional impact of the original, instead choosing to allow the programmed drums a brief breakbeat interlude. Monstrum in Animo and The One Thing Needful follow, strong at first but again allowing the electronics to take the lead and distract from the underlying solid black metal. This is at its worst on A Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair, which sounds like Aborym sneaked into the studio and inserted parts of their own songs randomly here and there. Fortunately, the album has a few strong points to stop it going completely off the rails, the title track being one, which moves back towards grind and has a truly demented vocal performance from Dave Hunt, moving from rabid gurgling to epic clean singing and back at the drop of a hat. The electronic elements work with the song, rather than against it, giving an enticing glimpse of how good the album could have been.

Sadly, it's a rare high point. Idol is a standout track, but it stands out only as a superior track low on electronic elements compared to the surroundings, and would not have been particularly notable on previous albums, even with the solo. Sub Specie Aeterni (of Maggots and Humanity) is also up to older standards, and The Joystream isn't far behind, but Niklas Kvarforth's guest appearance on Rage and Red is barely noticeable. And by the time finale Ita Mori cuts out in the middle of an unsatisfactory burst of noise, it's hard not to feel disappointed. Here's hoping Anaal Nathrakh can reverse this decline, and produce albums that live up to their names again.

Killing Songs :
Desideratum, Idol, Sub Specie Aeterni (of Maggots and Humanity)
Goat quoted 60 / 100
Other albums by Anaal Nathrakh that we have reviewed:
Anaal Nathrakh - Total Fucking Necro reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas reviewed by Jaime and quoted 68 / 100
Anaal Nathrakh - Passion reviewed by Jaime and quoted 83 / 100
Anaal Nathrakh - In The Constellation Of The Black Widow reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Anaal Nathrakh - Hell Is Empty, And All The Devils Are Here reviewed by Dylan and quoted 94 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
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