Album Review : Anaal Nathrakh - The Codex Necro (2001)
I can count on my fingers the number of life-altering experiences I had. Several artists have influenced my development as a person: writers, musicians, movie directors and other diverse storytellers, but only a special few gave me what I call "a revelation moment." Perhaps the most important revelation moments came in the wee hours of a winter morning in 2004, when a long-forgotten malevolent spirit slipped me an mp3 copy of Anaal Nathrakh's infamous song Pandemonic Hyperblast * through MSN messenger. My life changed that night. The next day I bought The Codex Necro and my life changed again. For the better, I promise.
Today I want to tell you about my bond to Anaal Nathkrakh's The Codex Necro, perhaps the most important album in my life.
Let's begin with Pandemonic Hyperblast. It's been called the most extreme song ever recorded several times and believe me, this reputation is earned. If you decided to press play and hear only a hostile and confusing four minutes-long wall of sound and inaudible soul-crushing shrieks, it's OK to close your browser and walk away. It doesn't mean you're a bad person. It doesn't mean you're weak or unsophisticated either. See, that song is a cipher meant to find its own audience. A tornado of decibels that can't possibly make sense to you if you've never experienced this chaotic and overwhelming anger burning through your chest. If Pandemonic Hyperblast floored you and opened up the gates to another dimension, keep reading.
Anaal Nathrakh is a nihilistic British metal band that plays an intoxicating (and seamless) mix of black metal, grindcore and industrial music. The Codex Necro is Anaal Nathrakh's first full-length album and it stands out in their discography as their most straightforward and brutal release. To be honest, it's the most brutal thing I've ever heard that I would actually call music. But it's not where its beauty lies. The band's influences are palpable throughout the record and they are cleverly implemented into an new and unholy sound. The guitar riffs on The Supreme Necrotic Audnance and Paradigm Shift - Annihilation for example are reminiscent of black metal legends Mayhem, particularly the mythic Death Crush era.
The unrelenting drum work and the pummeling pace and complex song structure will also remind you of Mayhem, but more of the Wolf's Lair Abyss era. The Codex Necro is very much an evolution from Mayhem's sound and aggression, but it's only one side of a multifaceted record. The guitars in songs like When Humanity is Cancer and Submission is for the Weak are pitschifted and downtuned and composer Mick Kenney isn't afraid to experiment with the aggressive grooves you often hear in typical grindcore song structures, really texturing the songs and distancing the band's sound from typical black metal and crafting its own, unique and ungodly brutal identity.
The industrial component of Anaal Nathrakh's music is perhaps more brash and in your face on The Codex Necro more than on any later recordings except maybe In the Constellation of the Black Widow, which was an atypically industrial-oriented record. Mick Kenney uses a wide array of samplings on The Codex Necro (notably of terrifying horror movie Event Horizon on killer track The Technogoat **), but what characterizes the album's sound is the glitches and the white noise coming and going, giving The Codex Necro an additional layer of hostility and atmosphere. It was a bold decision to take because metal audiences often are sound freaks, but it fit The Codex Necro so perfectly that it sound like it was by made by design.
So, I can hear you wondering: why is the music of Anaal Nathrakh so important to you, Ben? Valid question. The first time I heard Pandemonic Hyperblast, I felt a huge weight coming off my shoulders. I stopped fearing a lot of things, mostly my darker thoughts and interests. I've lived for 33 years now with this storm of nameless and chaotic emotions within that burned through friendships and other things I deemed meaningful. But hearing Dave Hunt and Mick Kenney made something out of that anger (and I recognized the emotion right away). Beautiful monuments to chaos and nihilism. That made me believe all these friendships and vulnerable moments where I was fighting myself needed burning. That it all lead me right where I needed to be. Dave and Mick gave a shape and a life to a feeling I could not even find words for.
I love Anaal Nakthrakh. They have a weird name based eighties movie Excalibur and I believe it caused them more harm than good, but the pure intensity and integrity of their music created an emotional bond betweem them and me that I don't know any other band can foster with such regularity. Dave Hunt and Mick Kenney's uncompromising nature created eight full-length albums of pummeling and sublime music. I've never disliked any of their records and own them all in one form of another, but The Codex Necro's unmatched ferocity will always have a special edge for me. It's not an album I listen to often. It's like a bottle of absinthe in the cupboard. It's powerful, way more powerful than I am but it's always there for me when I need it.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Submission is for the Weak, The Technogoat, Incipid Flock, The Codex Necro and, of course, the immortal Pandemonic Hyperblast.
* I strongly suggest reading the entire review before giving the song a try.
** Yeah, there's a song titled The Technogoat on that record. Deal with it.