English sound extremists Anaal Nathrakh are back with their ninth album entitled The Whole Of The Law which is already positioned in the upper echelons of their impressive discography. Dave Hunt a.k.a. V.I.T.R.I.O.L. is here to share all the thoughts about this musical abomination…
Hello Dave and welcome to the pages of Metal Sound! How are you guys doing these days?
Hello. We are good, thanks. We just got home from a rash of European shows, and finally we have some copies of The Whole of The Law so we can see what the finished items look like. We’re very pleased with them.
Your 9th album entitled The Whole Of The Law is about to hit the streets so how are you satisfied with the album and how do you see it in overall scheme of your discography?
Yes, we’re very pleased with it. It’s hardly like I’m going to say ‘no, it’s shit’, is it? We don’t see it anywhere in terms of our discography though, that’s more the perspective of journalists and observers, I think. We are only interested in making the best album that we can at a given time, making something we find satisfying. Whether it’s satisfying to us will typically include whether or not it’s got some new sounds, new ideas, new intensity or whatever. So as a by-product of that, there will naturally be some progression compared to our previous work. But we don’t think about other albums or whatever when we’re working on new material. So placing new albums in the context of a discography is something other people might think about, not us.
The Whole Of The Law carries some violent black metal feeling that is very similar with your couple of first albums IMHO. How would you comment upon this statement?
If that’s what you hear, then that’s fine by us. Like I say, we don’t think about it in those terms, we approach things differently. What we hear is an album that we think is brilliant, and that we’re very proud of. That we find satisfying. That’s all. But if you hear one thing or another in it, that’s down to you.
Electronic / industrial influences are increasing from album to album and also this time they are very present on The Whole Of The Law. They are not happy or danceable in any way but rather insanely violent. What can you tell us about the inspiration for these sections and work on them?
The fundamental answer is that we like those sounds. The inspiration is that we like those sounds, that we find they work well with our other music, and add something distinctive and exciting sounding. People often use the word industrial, but we’ve never really listened to what’s usually described as industrial music. Electronic music, yes, we do enjoy that. Broken Note, Gore Tech, Noisia and so on. We listen to very wide variety of stuff, and those acts are on a huge list of stuff we listen to a lot. In fact Gore Tech worked with us on the electronic elements of Desideratum. But there’s no attempt on our part to copy what those kinds of artists do, we’re not trying to mix our music with music that sounds like theirs. We’re only interested in making our own music, and we use whatever we feel is appropriate to do that. So in terms of influence or inspiration, all the various parts of our music come from the same place – what we want to hear.
The Whole Of The Law features some surprise sections like f.ex. those vocals in Extravaganza which sound totally like King Diamond! What can you tell us about them, did good old Kim find his way into the recording sessions?
Unfortunately not, though he’d be more than welcome, of course. I like to think my version of those vocals is pretty close to his though. We’ve used vocals like that since the first album, though usually in the background or as harmonies. If there’s a bit from an old album that you think might sound like a female singer harmonizing, for example, it isn’t. It’s me wailing. But on Extravaganza! they’re probably a bit more prominent than we’ve usually made them in the past, so people seem to have picked up on it a bit. We’re fans of King Diamond, we think he’s uniquely talented. And the atmosphere of that song, and of that particular part of that song, just struck me as appropriate for that type of vocals. It feels like a child’s nightmare, although what I’m actually singing about is rather more real. So when we were recording, I just said to Mick ‘hang on, I know what do to here’ and did it. And he thought it was brilliant. Pretty similar to how we approach everything else, really.
Can you tell us something about the album title and front cover? It carries some sort of Biblical connotations in my opinion…. While we are at it, please delve deeper into lyrical content of the album…
There’s a semi-biblical connection, in that the original painting we used was a depiction of a scene in the Divine Comedy. But it’s the content, rather than any religious ideas, that made us choose it. I think that the sentiments depicted on the front cover constitute one of the dominant operating principles of the world. Not quite as simply as just saying ‘mankind is ultimately savage’, because I don’ think that’s actually true. Individuals can be warm and thoughtful and all that sort of stuff. It’s more that I think a level of hysterical threat lies behind an awful lot of what goes on in terms of world government, the phenomenology of every-day conflicts, and so on. The idea behind the album title and artwork isn’t to say that anything is right or wrong. It’s simply to observe that all of the sides involved in almost any conflict operate at a near constant fever pitch. It’s in the nature of human psychology, it’s virtually an eternal truth. And that may be another reason why the artwork fits the way it does, and conveys a biblical-style undertone – the image is archetypical and depicts something timeless.
The whole vibe of the album is unbelievably bleak and the music is brutal as all Hall, there is not a single shard of hope to be found on The Whole Of The Law. What do you think about this statement, do you see the album in the same way?
I’d pretty much agree with it.
Some people are accusing Anaal Nathrakh of releasing the same music over and over again. How do you see this originality vs. quality debate in your band’s case?
Originality isn’t quite how I’d put it, since our style is original to us – no one sounded like we do until we did it. Parts, yes of course, but not the whole thing, the whole feel. And I haven’t heard anyone else who pulls off sounding like us since then. So, without wanting to sound as arrogant as it might come across, our originality can’t be in question. As for releasing the same music, no, I reject it entirely. For a start, it clearly isn’t the same music, it’s new music. But as to whether it’s too similar to our previous music, I don’t think it is. Each album sounds quite different to me. But probably more importantly, paying attention to that kind of thing doesn’t get you anywhere. Ulver changed totally, beyond all comparison, and I suspect lost their original fans but gained a whole load of new ones. They’re very successful. Bolt Thrower actually went so far as to say that they have only ever made one album, and they’ve just added songs to it every few years. They hardly changed in any way whatsoever. Yet they are a legendary band within death metal, and have been very successful. The point is that whether you change or not doesn’t really make much difference. The important thing is whether your music is any good. At shows we continually come across people who have only heard our last couple of albums. It would be impossible for our change or lack of it to make any difference to those people. And lately we’ve heard people saying The Whole of The Law is our best album since Constellation, or since Codex, or whatever. Again, the important part is ‘best’. As things currently stand, we feel happiest pushing the edges of Anaal Nathrakh and evolving naturally, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. If we did something totally different, it wouldn’t be Anaal Nathrakh to us.
In my opinion, Anaal Nathrakh has very original sound and in the same time you are one of the most brutal bands on the entire planet. Where do you think are the boundaries for the aggression?
I don’t know. We’ve spent time, amongst other things, pushing against the boundaries of our ability to put aggression into music. But I’m not qualified to judge what the absolute boundaries are. We’ve pushed to a point that’s beyond a lot of other bands in that respect, I think, but it’s not like it’s a competition to us. We did it because that’s what we wanted to do, but other people will have other things they want to do. Whether another group of people could come up with more aggressive sounding music, I don’t know. They probably already have. There’s quite a lot going on in our music, and so it’d make sense to me to think that something more singularly dedicated to aggression like Revenge or Extreme Noise Terror sounds more aggressive to some people’s ears. But at our harshest, I haven’t heard much that tops what we have done. Some of stuff verges into basically insane noise, and we’re happy that it does.
In my opinion, your music is in the same time unhinged and controlled in various sections. I was always interested to know how does your writing process look like, do you deliberately let that savage elements stay the same as you are writing them?
We don’t deliberately do very much at all. Obviously we deliberately make music that we like, and that sounds right for us and sounds appropriate for what Anaal Nathrakh is. Songs are structured so that they work as songs rather than just a collection of riffs, and so on. But beyond that we work mostly by instinct. It’s not really a matter of picking out savage parts and putting them in or taking them out. It’s more a case of writing a load of music we think is great, and some of that it always really savage. It’s just part of who and what we are.
Please tell us something about your cover of Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, was it the case of national pride choice? You certainly made something different out of it… On the other hand, why have you chosen Man at C&A? That is perhaps a bit unusual pick…
No, not national pride, and in fact not that much of choice. The UK magazine Kerrang approached us and asked if we’d record a Maiden cover for a CD they were going to give away with the mag. We happened to be about to record The Whole of The Law at the time, and so we could tag the Maiden song on to the album recording sessions. Plus Kerrang isn’t really our natural territory, it largely caters for a more mainstream audience, so we thought it would be kind of fun to have our song in the middle of a load of bands like Trivium or whatever. So we figured why not. We chose Powerslave because we liked it, and thought it would be a good fit for conversion into our style. And I’d like to think that we were right, we’re happy with how it came out. Recognisable, but very different in tone from the original. The main riff, once it’s played in our style, actually sounds fairly similar to something Mick might write. With Man at C&A, think about it like this – an extreme band who are often a bit obsessed with apocalyptic themes and who listen to a wide variety of music chooses to cover a song they enjoyed when they were kids, which is all about the threat of impending nuclear war and the insane tone of the politics around it. At a time when the current geopolitical climate is arguably heading in a more hysterical and polarised direction than it has since the time when the original song came out. It makes sense when you put it that way, right?
All the facts about the band’s history are well known but I am also interested to know something behind your personal lives if you are willing to share… Are you living off the band or you are still working daytime jobs? What are Mick’s and yours basic professions, have you finished some faculties?
Mick does various things, some of which sort of grew out of the band, like production work, his Misanthropy shirt designs and so on. He also does a lot of artistic work, but for the most part he concentrates on technical aspects of painting that he’s a bit obsessed with, rather than selling artwork or anything. Knowing his work as well as I do, I think that once he’s happy with the technical side he’ll be able to be quite successful as an artist. It’s taken him years, and he can produce some amazing results. I’m still waiting for the painting he promised me years ago though, haha! I study, but I don’t get paid for it, so music is the only thing I earn money for at the moment. I don’t earn a lot from music, certainly nowhere near as much as some people might think, but I can just about stay alive and concentrate the rest of my time on studying. I used to work in security, but when I got made redundant from that I figured it was better to scrape by for a few years in order to do something I thought was worthwhile, rather than give up important things like music and learning just to live more comfortably. A question of priorities.
What lies in the near future for the band, do you have some tours for the promotion of the album already planned? Where can we expect to see you in the next few months?
At the moment, we’ve just completed the shows we had lined up. We’ve got a couple of things arranged for next summer, but right now is the time when we’re looking into our plans for the new year. So at the moment we don’t have concrete plans, but we’re discussing a few things, and we’ll have some more definite plans soon. We tend to approach things on a slightly more ad hoc basis than some other bands, but we’ll be around. Also at the moment we’re involved with making our first music video since the one we made for More of Fire than Blood a few years ago, so that’s an interesting process. We’re committed to avoiding the typical ‘band stands in a warehouse playing the song’ kind of thing, so it’ll be cool to see how it turns out.
That would be all for this time, I would like to thank you for this chat and wish you all the best! Your last message to fans over here….
I hope the answers I gave weren’t boring. Thanks for the support. We genuinely appreciate it.
- Questions by Slobodan Trifunovic
- Answers by Dave Hunt