Anaal Nathrakh frontman Dave Hunt reflects on 'Horror in Extremis' tour
Having kindly allowed fans a good few months to pick their bloodied and semi-obliterated jaws up off the floor following the release of earth-shattering blackened epic, ‘A New Kind of Horror’, the tail-end of March 2019 saw Anaal Nathrakh hit the road for their hugely anticipated ‘Horror in Extremis’ tour. On the final night of the Birmingham wrecking crew’s recent round of electrifying UK tour dates, Dark Matter had the pleasure of checking in with frontman Dave Hunt to discuss everything from setlist selections to daytime drinking and unwelcome aquatic experiences.
It’s a little after 6pm in the capital and Anaal Nathrakh's Dave Hunt is chatting amiably with Dark Matter webzine beside a presently unoccupied bar in popular Highbury live music haunt, the Relentless Garage. Beyond the riff-laden clamour of the support act rehearsing furiously downstairs, it’s with audible excitement that the frontman looks ahead to what promises to be a blistering conclusion to the Brummie aggressors’ ‘Horror in Extremis’ touring cycle.
Of the tour thus far, Dave comments, “It’s been really good fun. The weirdest one was probably the first gig ’cos that was on a boat. It was a permanently moored boat, but a boat nonetheless and that’s just weird, but other than that, it’s gone really well. There have been plenty of people turning up, hoping for the same again tonight. So yeah, we had that one in Bristol on the boat and we also had our home town in Birmingham on Friday which was nice. Loads of people came down and we had a great time. Then there was Glasgow which was really strange too because it was really, really early. The first band on was Winterfylleth and they started playing before the bar was open, then Akercocke, then us and we were on at twenty past one which was definitely not a highlight! The gig went alright, it was just the getting up at 5am part that was hard. I had to start drinking before I’d usually be up out of bed. It was disgusting!”
But beyond these hugely enjoyable highlights and assorted antics, there’s no mistaking the painstaking efforts the band have invested in preparing this complex, multi-faceted material for the raw and spontaneous medium of live entertainment.
“To begin with, when we first started playing live we didn’t think we’d be able to do it at all,” Hunt reflects of this less than easily achievable transition. “So that was difficult, but nowadays we’ve learnt to fill in the blanks. We have the samples and bits and pieces of background noise live, so that’s all coming through the PA and hopefully it does sort of fill it out. It can be difficult to pick out live but hopefully if we put it in there you can pull it out the other side. But then there’s also the fact that listening to music live is a much less contemplative thing than listening to music at home, so if some of the edges are rounded off of the more interesting details, then live I think that’s a more than acceptable price to pay in exchange for the viscerality and spontaneity of a live performance. Like, having to duck because someone’s kicking you in the head from the side of the stage. All of that kind of thing is as much a part of the live experience as being able to pick up a specific piece of sound or whatever.”
That said, Dave is equally quick to note that both the aggressive and more subtle, atmospheric elements of Nathrakh’s sound are by no means mutually exclusive of each other. Indeed, it seems these darkly reflective elements lend themselves only too well to the emotionally heightened, ritualistic arena of live performance.
“I do think there’s a degree of heightened emotion that’s available live that, if it works, can work well,” the vocalist speculates thoughtfully. “I quite like the idea of attempting to step into slightly unusual emotional waters for this kind of music. Not in a way that dilutes the violence of it all, but in a way that complements it. Because, if you think of the standard sort of Florida death metal, Cannibal Corpse-type stuff, there’s nothing wrong with that kind of music, but at the same time there’s not much room for any kind of genuine reflection or emotion. And one of the reasons that black metal works as a counterpoint to that kind of stuff is that it does have space for it. Musically, I quite like the idea of having some of each without diluting either. I can’t vouch for being able to pull it off, but it’s certainly a worthwhile aim to have.”
And from the frostbitten, blackly immersive atmospheres of 2009’s ‘In The Constellation of the Black Widow’ through to the frantic and violently careening throes of recent smash ‘A New Kind of Horror’, fans can expect full and comprehensive coverage of every key, defining feature of the band’s blackly expansive back catalogue. Dave expands: “We’ll be doing at least two from the new one because, well, they’re wicked, but at the same time we’re well aware that there are people who want to come and see us live, but haven’t studiously listened to all of our most recent stuff, so we like to have a good cross-section of all our material. As well as that, there may also be those who have listened to the new stuff but prefer our older output. So it makes sense to mix things up time-wise.”
With Anaal Nathrakh’s latest UK touring cycle drawing to an imminent close tonight, Dave is eager to report that the coming months will soon see the band turning their attentions to fresh and exciting new creative territories. “There’s a very basic couple of ideas swirling around, but not much right now. We did take some audio recordings when we were in Japan and Australia so we might use some of that at some point. We might keep it back to using them as bonus tracks or possibly release an album of live material. Also, the last album was the last one on the deal we had with Metal Blade. Not that we’re necessarily thinking of walking away after this, but these things are always done in discrete blocks. At the moment, if we were to stay with them, we would need to re-sign and knowing that we have to sort that out it kind of retards your progress towards making a new thing because you don’t know what kind of form it’s going to take. But I imagine we’ll be able to sort that out relatively soon and then it’ll be time to turn creative once again.”