A dive into occult and hatred...
(Courtesy of Plastichead)
Fuck me…this album takes off like a rocket-propelled rat from a drainpipe. Obviously past albums haven’t exactly been quiet and slow, but is there a specific reason for this renewed level of intensity and violence?
Thank you. Yes there is - Mick. The ideology and atmosphere I try to build around the music will always be extreme to the point of being maniacal because I’m not quite right, but the basis is always going to be the music, and aside from the odd chat or idea I might suggest, that’s entirely down to Mick. After he’d recorded the songs, a mutual friend had the chance to listen to some of it before I went to the studio, and when I asked him how it sounded he just said ‘fucking heavy!’ The thing I think we both had in mind for this album was for it to be darker, more sinister. It’s still typically varied, but there’s a darker and more intense seam running through everything from the music and the subject matter to the tone and style of the artwork. The opening part of the album is just pungently evil, then all hell breaks loose and it blasts off into the stratosphere. It’s all about impact. The silly thing is, there will still be people who say we’ve ‘continued’ down the path to becoming a tame melodic death band. People are free to think what they like, it’s their loss.
Has the new material been at all influenced by your more regular ventures into the realm of live performance?
No, not really. For example some of the album is a good bit faster than previously, so no consideration is shown for the poor bastard who has to play the drums for one song after another after another! When you’re listening to a CD, it’s the experience of listening to the CD that’s important, not whether or not you think someone could stand in front of you and play it. I love Obscura by Gorguts, but the reason I love it is because it sounds so chaotic and driven, not because I know the guitar parts are hard. We will pull it all off live, I know that, but the focus of what you do in the studio has to be the feeling you’re conveying, that’s paramount. And Anaal Nathrakh in full flight should sound like having your eyeballs pulled out through your arsehole by someone staring at the sky and screaming ‘NO!’ while they deep throat a gun. Hmm, there’s a catchy summation.
No one can fail to have noticed that the world has become an even more fucked up place recently…does the current state of the world play into your hands as harbingers of doom and despair, or would you rather everything turned out okay in the end?
As an individual and in terms of my family and so on, I hope it all works out – I just want to live and be happy as far as is possible. The problem is that I’m convinced that it won’t all work out. Not necessarily tomorrow, but eventually it’ll all go catastrophically wrong. And that’s as much inevitable as it is a terrible, terrible shame. I don’t think that most people, me included, have even the start of an understanding of how fucked up things really are – do you know who John Major went to work for after he was PM? Have you seen Zeitgeist or heard Rob Newman lately? Have you been asked to prove your identity to buy a copy of certain books yet? Why has the global economy slumped? Are you sure? Still, no need to worry – if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear. Pah!
Could you elaborate on the lyrical specifics of this album…and the significance of ‘…the constellation of the black widow’?
The title is based on a metaphor used in the book ‘Moment of Freedom’ by Jens Bjørneboe. It’s an amazing, exhausting book, an apparently semi-autobiographical first person account of a character living through the era of the Second World War. But believe me, it is nothing like what you would expect from that description. It’s incredibly rich, yet strangely detached – the author quotes Dante in the vernacular, there’s extensive, detailed analysis of art (I had a print of ‘The Hangman’s Tree’ by Jacques Callot bought as a present for me after I was blown away by the description of it in the book), withering observations on anthropology and the human capacity for generating misery, stunningly vivid depictions of phases of mental illness, it’s a travelogue, and so on. At one point the protagonist claims that within the next ten years, he will have accumulated so much knowledge of the cruelty and inhumanity of the world that life will become untenable. Then ten years after the book’s publication, the author killed himself. And there’s one bizarre yet chilling passage where he’s recounting key events in history in a voice detached to the point of insanity, interspersed with a discussion of the art museums he’s visited. One line will mention the ‘experiments in vivisection’ being conducted in ‘Teutonia’ (by which he means Mengele etc.) and the next will be about a particular painting he’s seen at such and such a gallery. The effect is intense, the depth of feeling involved is intentionally glaringly conspicuous by its absence – the author brings it horrifyingly home by not even saying it. And towards the end of the passage, he says that Uranus and Pluto have come together in the sign of the Black Widow, meaning that the atomic bombs have been detonated over Japan. It’s easy to bandy around concepts like nuclear war, a lot of bands do it. But by using something so involved and poetic, I was trying to underline the fact that thousands of people screaming to their deaths in the most cataclysmic event in human history isn’t just a piece of historical trivia. Of course I understand that a lot of people neither know nor care about the references etc and that’s fine – this is an album of music, not a post graduate exam. You don’t need to know about all this stuff to get your fill out of the album. And the title just sounds fucking cool in its own right. But these things are important to me, so that’s what goes into the mix. I could be here forever explaining what the Lucifer Effect means, the book of Isaiah, how I decided to interpret Nostradamus for ‘More of Fire…’ and everything else, but that’d need a whole other interview!
With bands as sonically extreme as yourselves, there is sometimes a fine line between pushing the boundaries further and becoming totally unlistenable…how do you consistently walk that tightrope with such great balance?
You have to listen to what you’re doing with the ear of a fan. For all the misanthropy, we’re still trying to ensure that people will get something out of listening to what we produce. Then again, different people’s definition of ‘unlistenable’ will vary. I love listening to the most extreme noise music and even sometimes the sounds of industrial machinery, but most people would hardly consider those listenable or musical. It’s a good thing that I don’t make the music because it’d probably have tumbled off that tightrope a long time ago. Mick has a good instinct for knowing what’s musically worthwhile. Another thing is to think organically – it wouldn’t be hard to make a song at 1000 bpm, but that would be pointless because we wouldn’t enjoy listening to it. You have to be not only your own sternest critic but also your own primary consumer. And the biggest thing is imagination - one reason our music is so varied and even catchy despite its extremity is that we strive to remain imaginative the whole time.
Clearly your worldview is not a particularly joyful or optimistic one, so what motivates you as an artist these days? Is there a goal to be achieved here or is this just an exercise in venting and catharsis for you?
It’s not so much venting, although is it cathartic. But simply venting would imply ‘get it all out and have done with it’. Anaal Nathrakh is more snapshots of an ongoing thing, so a better word could be articulation. The goal is expression of the barely expressible. It’s the same as art – just because we don’t have a political or material goal doesn’t mean that expression of something that others can appreciate and identify with can’t be a goal in itself. The two of us have different reasons – for the most part Mick simply enjoys making music that has the right ‘aaargh!’ feeling. Since he was a kid he’s been enraptured by that feeling in music (as well as many other things, of course) and he loves creating sounds that pile on the aaaargh. For me the weltanschauung is just as important – it’s about making a cool/satisfying noise, and of course giving the listener an appropriate experience both in terms of the sound itself and the basic joy of hearing something exhilarating/interesting/steeped in the occult and hatred. But it’s also about having that noise be a direct translation of the sense of the world that I have.
The Emperor and King Diamond influences are ever more in evidence on the new album…does the more epic, bombastic and melodic elements in your sound point at a desire to reach a bigger audience, or are they simply necessary pieces in the jigsaw?
Strange, people have been mentioning an Emperor influence for a while now, and there literally isn’t one, never really has been. Similarity, perhaps, but you’d have to ask someone who spends a lot of time listening to Emperor – we wouldn’t know. Still, it’s hardly an insult. We’re not the kind of people who would want to make sure that noone can buy one of our albums unless they’re wearing a t-shirt selected from a list of five approved bands and get their bullet belts from the right manufacturer. But neither are we Fear Factory or whatever your pet hate commercially orientated band is. We simply make music that we think sounds good, and the audience will either come or it won’t. We have a vested interest in people buying our albums of course – if plenty of people do so, we can get enough money for some new guitars or recording equipment and that sort of thing. But that’s all, and the only factor that dictates what we play is what we want to hear ourselves. The parts you’re talking about are there because we like them, same as the parts that are like a jackhammer up your nose. We like soaring and we like skin peelingly brutal, so we do them. And yes, all the shades are important to getting across the atmosphere we’re aiming for. We’re easily capable of doing other things if we wanted to be more commercially viable, but we’re not Paradise Lost circa 1996 – to be honest I find the suggestion laughable.
Did you ever anticipate that Anaal Nathrakh would be releasing its fifth full-length album? Does it surprise you that you’re still doing this?
The most intense flame burns out fastest? No and no. To begin with, we never thought about the future at all, our only concern was for what we were doing at the time. And that’s still largely the case, although now we’re aware that we’ve got a three album deal with Candlelight, so we are to an extent forced to think about releasing our sixth album at some point. But we keep our heads down and focus on the present – which is precisely why it doesn’t surprise me we’re still doing it – it’s unfulfilled expectations that kill appreciation. We don’t really have expectations, so there’s no hopes to be dashed and every good thing is a bonus. For the same reason, it wouldn’t have surprised me if we’d split up by now. We started from nothing and have continued pretty much that way ever since simply by concentrating only on the things that make up our internal world, and then we end up standing on a stage in Norway, Maryland, at Hellfest in front of, I don’t know, several thousand people. You would be hard pushed to find anyone who was less of a rock star, so it’s continually astonishing to me and I can’t see any reason not to carry on for the time being.
Why & how did you end up signing with Candlelight? What sealed the deal for you?
We actually got a lawyer to look over the contracts for the first time! Usually I’ve been the one to go through our contracts – I can decipher the legal language, but I’m hardly an expert. But Mick had ended up peripherally getting in touch with a chap who worked as a music industry lawyer for some time, and so when labels came along, Mick asked him to take a look at what they were saying. We knew we wanted a label that was a bit bigger than we’d had in the past – when you’ve worked so hard on an album, you want to be able to make the most of it. We’re not interested in being the new Dimmu Borgir, but having a label with a decent distribution and promotion network working for you means you’re that much better off in terms of getting your stuff out there and into the hands of people who want to hear it. So we ended up speaking to a few notable labels, and Candlelight was the one that made most sense. They know who and what we are, and we know they’ve got the infrastructure and ability to handle a decent sized band. It’s not a meeting of soul mates and we’re not signed to them for life, it’s just a competent label who showed a belief in the band. Hopefully things will go well and everyone will be satisfied – because then with that out of the way, we can get on with the aspects of being in a band that really matter to us.
What are your plans after the release of the new album? Will there be more shows and even a “proper” tour this year?
It’s early days at the moment – as of now there’s still over two months before the album’s released, and we’ve been working towards that more than thinking about what happens next. We’ve got a few shows lined up, and there will be more added to the list as we re-surface in the collective consciousness of promoters. There are a couple of festivals in mainland Europe, a domestic show or two, and a “proper”-ish tour of America has been discussed. Society’s got around three and a half years left, so we may as well try to achieve something with what little time we have!
Line-up on this record:
V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (Dave Hunt) - Vocals (Mistress (UK), Benediction)
Irrumator (Mick Kenney) - Guitars, Bass, Drums, Programming (Frost (UK), Mistress (UK), Exploder (UK), Fukpig, Professor Fate, Deliverance)
Venator - Guitars (Exploder (UK))
Misery - Bass (Mistress (UK), Exploder (UK))
St. Evil (Steve Powell) - Drums (Detrimentum (UK), Theoktony)
Birmingham - UK
Official sites: http://www.anaal-nathrakh.tk/
-Anaal Natrakh (Demo - 1999)
-Total Fucking Necro (Demo - 1999)
-The Codex Necro (CD - 2001)
-Total Fucking Necro (Compilation CD - 2002)
-When Fire Reigns down from the Sky, Mankind Will Reap As It Has Sown (EP - 2003)
-Domine Non Es Dignus ( CD - 2004)
-Eschaton (CD - 2006)
-Hell Is Empty, and All the Devils Are Here (CD - 2007)
-In the Constellation of the Black Widow (CD - 2009)