Anaal Nathrkah - _Hell Is Empty & All the Devils Are Here_
(Feto Records, 2007)
by: Jackie Smit (8.5 out of 10)
If you were among the rather vocal niche for whom _The Codex Necro_ was one of the most exhilaratingly fetid blasts of petroleum-soaked air to emanate from the black metal genre since _De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas_, then it's likely that you presently have a photo of Mick Kenney tacked up against a dart board somewhere in your home. The increased presence of death metal and grindcore's voracious blasting has for some time now been moving Anaal Nathrakh steadily away from their purist roots. _Domine Non Es Dignus_ planted the seeds in 2004, and last year's _Eschaton_ appeared to be even more confidently resolute in turning a corner, creatively speaking. But it's on _Hell Is Empty..._ that the purists will most likely feel more compelled than ever to thumb their noses at the band's shift in direction.

Not that the latest instalment in Anaal Nathrakh's discography is demure in any way, of course. As has been the case since their inception, _Hell Is Empty..._ is perpetually bloodthirsty from start to finish, evidenced in no small measure by the storming serenades of "Screaming of the Unborn" and "Castigation & Betrayal". Dave Hunt's vocals are psychotically unhinged for the most part, and the production likewise is often almost overwhelmingly dense and layered.

Still, there's little arguing that within Anaal Nathkrah's arsenal, black metal now shares a largely equal footing with much of extreme music's other offshoots. "Virus Bomb" is awash with atonal riffing that could just as easily have been at home on any Zyklon record, while "Der Holle Rache Kocht In Meinen Herzen" harkens back at several points to Lock Up's _Hate Breeds Suffering_. Once a rare preserve, the rousing and often clean-sung choruses that drew their fair share of critical ire on _Eschaton_ are also more prevalent here than ever before.

Still, none of this should prove a stumbling block for any but the most conservative tastes. Anaal Nathrakh remain an utterly crushing proposition in every respect. Their present-day method of assault may be significantly more polished than before, but frankly there's only so many times they'd have been able to redo _The Codex Necro_ without it turning into complete overkill anyway.


(article published 19/11/2007)

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