As with most of the great bands, some don’t put on a live show nearly as often as they should. Through various constraints, namely I’d imagine that the core of Anaal Nathrakh actually live thousands of miles apart, this is the case here too.
Despite this, Anaal Nathrakh‘s first showing in London since their Underworld show at Candlefest in 2013 (and previously at the same haunt in 2011 to which I did manage to go) has got people excited and as I arrive to the Black Heart nice and early in time for an interview with frontman Dave ‘V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’ Hunt (which will be here shortly!), knowing nods between those metalheads wandering around the vicinity suggest that again those “who know” are here as excited as I am.
First off, it should be mentioned that the Black Heart is a legendary staple of the already vibrant Camden music scene, regularly playing host to a bomb-load of events (most recently Desertfest) but I’ve always been dubious of it’s acoustic virtues. Not that it’s the worst, by any stretch, but it’s definitely been plagued with some interesting dynamics in the past…
Thankfully, this (eventually) is not the case tonight. I’ll admit in my opinion that some of the levels were a bit off, but whilst the quite frankly very, very impressive Voices blister through their set, the sound-guys look to iron out the creases. I didn’t know a single song by the lads and have absolutely zero idea of what they played that night, but I felt like I was watching some sort of Akercocke spin-off; turns out, they only bloody are (with former drummer David Gray, bassist Peter Benjamin and guitarist Sam Loynes). I wish I had known this nugget BEFORE the show, but hey, this is still by all and every account, a fantastic thing. Definitely looking forward to catching them again (8/10).
So, it’s always a curious thing when bands that sound as brutally apocalyptic as Anaal Nathrakh take to the stage in jeans and t-shirts. Of course, there was a time when a band’s image was pretty much everything and the more shocking / offensive or chaotic the music then the more likely it would be married with theatrical visuals. Of course, for me, the image is almost insignificant but the absence of any distraction from the music makes it all the more raw and honest. This only makes it all the more foreboding…
Nathrakh‘s setlist contains a mix of tracks from their legacy but in their relatively short(er) set they focus on the latter part of the catalogue (5 of the 12 taken from the latest album). Alas nothing from ‘Hell is Empty and All the Devils Are Here’ or debut EP ‘When Fire Rains Down from the Sky, Mankind Will Reap As it Has Sown’, but you’ll never please all the people. Their live line-up tonight is not one I’ve seen before and whilst Dave and Mick are obviously present, I only recognise drummer Steve (Theoktony) having played with the guys before. I am sure this is not the case, but I’m used to catching what is effectively Mistress under a different banner…
Despite this almost needless observation, they are in devastating unison as they lay waste with the ferocious ‘Forging Towards the Sunset’ (arguably the best track from ‘Vanitas’) and as they launch into the guaranteed-showing of ‘Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes’ I snap forth my head and wonder whether St.John’s Ambulance are going to be my taxi home.
Though of it’s of little interest to anybody else, I went to this gig as a borderline cripple having shot my back earlier in the day. Whilst copious amounts of cider got me through, the swirling and sustained ferocity of the heaving mass-o-metal really did a chiropractic number on me. By the time ‘In the Constellation of the Black Widow’ is tearing the ceiling a new one, the small stage is spitting forth divers and as I move back in a bid to sustain my spinal situation, a flurry of circle-headbanging and hair takes up the majority of my scope of vision.
From the outset, any passer-by would assume there was some sort of biblical vacuum localised in the Black Heart but the smiles of passion and appreciation in the crowd as ‘Idol’ and ‘The Joystream’ quite literally flatten the place are a poignant contrast and a stark reminder not to judge a book by it’s cover. Banter aplenty and with aching necks, arms and throats, this is a band, who whilst combining elements common to many artists of past and present, are also (and somehow) so unique in the sound they have crafted. Some have said the past they’ve managed a form of ‘necro-metal’, ‘extreme melodic black-metal’ and crusty (trusty?) ‘grindcore’, but the band have dismissed this and have often said they’re just good old, raw-as-you-have-it, metal.
I couldn’t agree more; having a long-standing love for both Dave and Mick’s work outside of Anaal Nathrakh in Benediction, Fukpig, Mistress, Professor Fate and Frost (who incidentally were one of the first black-metal bands I started listening to) I knew this show would be special.
Fucking smashing, in fact. As per usual.
- Acheronta Movebimus (from ‘Desideratum’)
- Unleash (from ‘Desideratum’)
- Monstrum in Animo (from ‘Desideratum’)
- Forging Towards the Sunset (from ‘Vanitas’)
- Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes (from ‘Eschaton’)
- Between Shit and Piss We Are Born (from ‘Eschaton’)
- In the Constellation of the Black Widow (from ‘In the Constellation of the Black Widow’)
- Drug-Fucking Abomination (from ‘Passion’)
- Of Fire, and Fucking Pigs (from ‘Vanitas’)
- Idol (from ‘Desideratum’)
- The Joystream (from ‘Desideratum’)
- Do Not Speak (from ‘Domine Non Es Dignus’)
Some legend has captured a small snippet, in which my head and arms make a few appearances…