Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas
Anaal Nathrakh, from the UK, is back with their seventh album of extreme metal, “Vanitas.” This duo has been on my radar for years, yet I have never given them much attention. Despite the band receiving praise from the metal media, the few clips I heard never impressed me enough to get me listening to the band in depth. Turns out that was my loss. With more praise forthcoming for this latest album, I decided to sit down and give “Vanitas” my full attention. It did not take long to hear the error of my past conclusions.
Let me just begin with saying that “Vanitas” is an amazing album. The clips I listened to in the past just sounded like noise, but I was not listening to enough to “get” what is going with Anaal Nathrakh’s music. Taken out of context it sounded like unskilled noise, taken in context of the entire song, that noise becomes brilliant art. I expected all the songs to be one long wall of noise with nothing distinguishing one song from another. There are certainly moments of such all out aggression, but there is also so much more. These songs combine the extremity of grindcore with the grand melodic layering of black metal and even a little bit of industrial.
Another thing I noticed fairly quickly was that despite the extreme nature of the songs not all vocals are harsh. There is actually quite a lot of clean vocal work, and I love it because it is not done with any kind of cheese factor. The clean vocals on “Vanitas”, rather than taking away from the extremity, actually add to its dark beauty by bringing contrast and a different kind of power. I cannot help but compare it with how brilliantly Cattle Decapitation incorporated cleaner vocals on their latest, “Monolith of Inhumanity.” What really chagrined me was the fact that, upon listening to earlier Anaal Nathrakh albums, I found they have been including the clean vocals all along.
This is me finally jumping on the bandwagon and declaring Anaal Nathrakh to be masters of extreme metal. Be sure to check these guys out. Get a taste by listening to “Forging Towards the Sunset” below.
Wanderer – Bypassing the Abyss
Originally released in 2004, “Bypassing the Abyss” by Ukrainian black metal band Wanderer has been cleaned up and re-released in 2012.
I have to admit that this album, which is technically eight years old already, is hard pressed to sell me when following on the heels of Anaal Nathrakh’s latest. In comparison “Bypassing the Abyss” sounds pretty weak in the production department. Other than the vocals being mixed lower than the music the production is actually better than a lot of raw black metal in this vein, but I still find myself a little disappointed. Bumping up the vocals to sit on top of the music rather than beneath it would go a long way towards gaining my approval.
From a black metal fan standpoint I can understand the appeal of this album and the desire to re-release it. These guys work well within the framework of traditional, raw, old school black metal, and to black metal purists the sound on this album is probably just the way they want it to sound. So be it, but I like what I like, and while I respect what Wanderer was going for here, I think it could have been done even a little better.
Here is the track “Disappearing in the Mist.”
Kill Ritual – The Serpentine Ritual
Looking at the review calendar I saw Kill Ritual and mentally switched gears over to death metal. Whoopsy, wrong metal sub-genre. Their bio blurb actually calls this “straight-up metal” but I can hear a some thrash in there too. Then I noticed this was being released by Scarlet Records and it all made sense. Italian label Scarlet Records puts out a lot of quality traditional and power metal albums.
Despite the designer Italian label, Kill Ritual is based out of California and “The Serpentine Ritual” is their first album.
The first thing that really jumped out to me about “The Serpentine Ritual” was the vocals of Josh Gibson. The music may lean in the thrash direction, but some of Josh’s vocals tend toward a slightly higher pitch that immediately brings to mind the slightly whiny singing from the late 80s. I am not talking Warrant style hair metal, but more of a Dangerous Toys kind of thing. What surprises me about this is that I actually think it works well with the music on this album. I am quick to add that he does not sing only in this style; he has a deeper sound that he uses as well, and this helps to keep the higher style from grating on my ears after awhile. The bottom line here is that I am kind of digging Kill Ritual.
While I enjoy what these guys are doing, the album is far from perfect. The musicianship and vocals are not at fault, and the production is good enough, but the songwriting seems a little simplistic at times. The musicianship prevents the songs from getting boring, but the subject material seems a little dated. Case in point is the track “Old School Thrasher.” I like the song, but the lyrics are pretty cheesy, like something off a White Wizzard album.
Project Mars – Don’t Hold Back
Project Mars are a hard rock band from Ottowa, ON and “Don’t Hold Back” is their debut EP.
I will be honest I do not listen to a lot of new hard rock these days. Most of the hard rock I listen to is likely stuff that was released when I was a young lad and I formed an emotional attachment to it that has lasted through the years. Admittedly, a big part of my not listening to new hard rock probably has a lot to do with not a lot of people releasing new hard rock albums. It seems to be all about rap, country and Justin Bieber these days, and that just serves to drive me deeper into the metal underground. Suddenly I picture myself living in a dark cave and looking like Gollum. Metal is my precioussssssss.
Anyway, once in awhile I get my hands on some cool hard rock music and I come out into the sunlight for a bit to rock things old school. A few months back I had the great pleasure of checking out Irish rockers Trucker Diablo, and now I am proud to present you with these Canadians, Project Mars.
The six tracks on “Don’t Hold Back” are each a catchy piece of ear candy. I could complain that there are only six tracks to be had here, but there isn’t an ounce of filler on here, so just consider this the best parts of a full album with the fat trimmed off.
If the catchy songs were not enough to hook me, the title track “Don’t Hold Back” is about, and dedicated to, soldiers in the armed forces. I am a total sucker for songs that pay tribute to soldiers, so Project Mars had me as soon as I heard this song. In fact, it was this song that swayed me to feature Project Mars on the site. The other songs being good helped, but this was the clincher.