The Whole of the Law
Metal Blade Records
Reviewed By Simon Crawley
Imagine any apocalyptic scene where the world is burning and the sea is galloping towards the shoreline with devastating intent – you can be sure that the soundtrack to such events will be courtesy of Birmingham, England’s Anaal Nathrakh. With all the extremities that heavy metal brings, there are few bands with the ability and stamina to concentrate this diversity into a collective shell of such atomic proportions. There is no forgiveness to be found here; no break in the tireless waves for you to gasp for air.
Over 15 years and now nine studio albums, the duo of Mick Kenney (guitars, bass, drums and programming) and Dave Hunt (vocals) have remained a studio-focussed outfit with a smattering of live, once-off appearances with guest contributions from the likes of Shane Embury and Danny Herrera. From puritanical black metal beginnings to a fully evolved head-shattering cocktail of grindcore, death, black, and industrial metal; Anaal Nathrakh demonstrates a boot-on-the-throat sort of authority on The Whole of the Law.
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” is a phrase by Englishman Aleister Crowley and is echoed by the band with “We will fucking kill you shall be the whole of the law” on their fourth track. This is the sort of flagrant middle finger to the norm and order of things which Anaal Nathrakh preaches and puts into corrosive verse and melody. The utter depths of despair, bleakness, and depravity are measured by the relentless screams, sawing of riffs, and battering of drum blasts. ‘’The Nameless Dread” is a misleading opening track; a snake in the muddied grass – hold tightly whatever keeps your mental sanctity from being breached because you will be tested and dragged out from under your shelter.
This album is not one of those capsule pills that slip easily down with one swig of water. This needs to be broken up into a series of chugs because one run at it just won’t do or do justice to the extremities at work here. From Hunt’s terrifying range of screams and retching growls, to the artillery of polished drums, the onslaught of varied guitar work from Kenney, and through to the powerful effect of the electronic programming; there is a lot to digest here. “Depravity Favours the Bold” sets the tone as it possesses every element which makes this album so richly layered. From these layers also comes a satisfying sense of continuity and flow throughout all eleven tracks. There is uniformity without any stagnation as each track stands on its own; bleeding into the next.
The inexhaustible furiousness of these guys is also something very commendable. “…So We Can Die Happy” is a prime example of how they go full tilt and balls to the wall – not for the sake of being heavy, but for bringing what they are about and bringing it with authority. Extreme metal runs the risk of being like a donut – all the emphasis on the outside with nothing at the core. The Whole of the Law oozes quality from the centre; resulting in a blisteringly good album.