Let’s get the obvious point out of the way right now: about half of Anaal Nathrakh’s career has been rather superfluous. They haven’t really done much new since they truly cemented their formula on the monumental Eschaton, and many fans would agree that they’ve been delivering diminished returns since about 2011’s Passion. That’s not to say that any of it is bad or that there is nothing fresh on any of those albums, as they’ve often amped up the electronic elements to both good (Vanitas) and less good (A New Kind of Horror) results, while albums like The Whole of the Law make a pretty good case for there being plenty left in this blackened industrial grind machine.
If this personal giving-a-hoot cycle continues to play out, that would point to Endarkenment not only being better, but also yours truly being more into it. And while it is certainly better (and yes, I definitely care more about it), it doesn’t necessarily match up to some of the band’s best later albums, most notably something like The Whole of the Law.
That being said, the approach Anaal Nathrakh took here is likely to appeal to fans that were growing tired of all the pseudo dubstep and other electronic elements. Endarkenment is easily their most stripped down and purely metal album since In the Constellation of the Black Widow, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a “return to the roots” album or anything. It is neither as ruthlessly intense as Constellation nor as grindy as something like Domine Non Es Dignus.
Instead, Endarkenment splices all the expected blasting brutality with more than the usual dosage of melodeathy vibes. “Feeding the Death Machine,” for example, pairs Hunt’s signature chorus singing with background music that can only be described as downright pretty, while the song also offers up a melodic, narrative solo. The album-opening title track (and yes, tis a silly title) features one of the most unabashedly grandiose choruses in a career of grandiose choruses. Hunt remains among metal’s most truly gifted singers, and at times on Endarkenment he almost appears to be enjoying himself. A song title like “Create Art, Though the World May Perish” even hints at a bit of perseverance despite all signs pointing towards stuff being, oh, pretty bad in the world right now (wicked track too).
But it also states that the world may perish, so let’s put the kibosh on any positive line of thinking right here and now. Anaal Nathrakh, even in the fun moments, is not really here for fun or joy or anything of that nature. This is a mean-spirited, thoroughly hopeless, and largely nihilistic band (still want published lyrics). The core of the band’s sound remains a cold, industrial black metal delivery, razor-sharp tremolo riffs, and Hunt’s piercing scream. Some of the songs that feature a little extra melody also see Hunt foregoing his operatic majesty in the choruses and sticking with his throaty filth for the duration. “Punish Them” sees some of Kenney’s riffs going into Dark Tranquillity territory while Hunt sounds like he’s actually in pain. And yes, Hunt also brings back one of his rarest but coolest tricks: that ultra high but totally maniacal falsetto he drops in “Libidinous (A Pig with Cocks in Its Eyes)” (Oh, you haven’t seen the real, NSFW cover for this album? I’m sorry and you’re welcome.)
All of this is to say that Endarkenment is a very enjoyable album that doesn’t really do anything new, even when it’s kind of doing something fresh. It will easily appeal to fans that can’t get enough of anything and everything Anaal Nathrakh delivers, and might bring back some folks that hated all the extra electronic stuff. It doesn’t change the fact that they’ve kinda become extreme metal’s version of Motörhead in terms of their consistency in sound and ludicrous productivity, but I doubt either Hunt or Kenney would be too upset about such a descriptor. Endarkenment is the sound of a very comfortable veteran act doing very comfortable veteran act things.