- Words by Faye Coulman
PROFITS OF DOOM: Anaal Nathrakh's Dave Hunt reflects on darkly prophetic 11th album 'Endarkenment'
As far as inspiring dark and thoroughly disquieting feats of artistic brilliance goes, suffice it to say that the year 2020 has done a pretty serviceable job, all things considered. From sky-rocketing COVID mortality rates and power-crazed world leaders to police brutality and brawling supermarket shoppers, this unending array of real world atrocities has played no small part in fuelling some truly outstanding works of heavy music of late. But as a band who’ve had all senses keenly attuned to these ominous shadow frequencies long before the world officially went to Hell in a handbasket last March, Anaal Nathrakh’s latest brutal and bitingly satirical tour de force was always guaranteed to be something special. Formidable frontman Dave Hunt weighs in on the epic work of apocalyptic extremity that is ‘Endarkenment’.
“It turns out that the way the world went in 2020 just brought out even more clearly a lot of the problems and causes for anger and rage and resentment that we were already talking about on the album and threw it all into even starker relief,” explains Anaal Nathrakh’s Dave Hunt on the curiously impeccable timing with which 11th studio opus ‘Endarkenment’ was unleashed upon the world. Indeed, while it would be in decidedly poor taste to describe its advent as fortuitous, exactly, there’s no denying that, as COVID-19 tightened its lethal, vice-like grip on the Western world back in March 2020, the album’s pitch-black lyrical yarns of insatiable greed, ignorance and corruption were instantly ushered to the forefront of our collective attentions.
“We're talking about fairly general things that we’ve noticed happening the last four or five years at least,” the vocalist clarifies of a crisis set in motion long before COVID-19 first rocked human civilisation to the very core of its being. “You know, the spread of ignorance or turning away from a willingness to listen to experts and rationality and a total lack of basic competence among those in high positions of public office and so on. Then when the pandemic comes along, their incompetencies are laid bare and the mendacity of everything they say and do is laid bare. The fact that some people just don't want to listen to what they should be doing is just paraded in front of us. In an exceedingly clear way, lots of these themes seem to have been drawn out by the pandemic. In all sorts of ways, we've sort of benefited from those, which is a really weird position to be in. And when we put out that video for ‘Endarkenment’, I did happen to see that someone had put a comment along the lines of ‘Here comes the soundtrack to 2020’ or something like that. And I have to say I think that’s reasonably accurate.”
With its deathly depictions of cartoon pigs donning blindfolds, quaffing bleach and hurling themselves, en masse, off a cliff edge, it’s hard to imagine a piece of animation that so vividly captures the wilful ignorance and crippling stupidity that’s come to define humanity circa 2020 and beyond. Paired with a genre-smashing fusion of battering ultra-violence and sculpted riffage that elevates their sound to the stuff of post-apocalyptic brilliance, this deliciously sinister standout finds the duo on relentlessly electrifying form. And from sinewy slabs of heavyweight groove and brimstone-scorched screams of torment to sleekly muscled accents of Scandi-flavoured fretwork and luxuriant operatic flourishes, it’s also undoubtedly one of the most compositionally innovative records of their entire career to date. So the process of writing such sonically inventive material, we might then reasonably assume, would likely have proved something of a time-consuming, perhaps even gruelling, affair overall? Far from it, in fact, Hunt reveals.
“From actually sitting down, plugging a guitar in and going, this is the writing process, it was less than a week until he [Mick Kenney, composer and guitarist] completed the album and it's absurd that that could be the case. I don't know how anyone could do it, but yeah, just three or four days was all it took. So the idea that it could be anything other than pure instinct kind of flies out the window in that regard. It's done that quickly. And one of the features of the way Mick does it is yeah, he's got general sort of principles in his head, things he likes, you know, the way he likes to go about things. He might have certain ideas for bits and pieces floating around beforehand, but when it comes down to actually writing songs, he does it so quickly. It's a little bit absurd, to be honest. It’s a bit like that famous song by The Beatles - ‘Yesterday’, I think it is. McCartney claimed to have written it in 15 minutes, and someone said, ‘What, 15 minutes?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but it took me 20 years to be good enough to do it in 15 minutes’. So yeah, I wouldn't want to say there's a lack of care on Mick’s part or anything like that. He's simply able to write music ridiculously quickly. Not because he's not bothered, but because he's just got a talent for doing it. But in the case of ‘Endarkenment’, I think he really did break all previous records this time.”
Fast forward more than a full year since this nightmarish masterpiece immortalised the deathly essence of this uncommonly bleak new era, and precious little appears to have changed for the better. But while humanity’s fate still hangs ever-precariously in the balance, there’s no small amount of grimly perverse comfort to take in the knowledge that, wherever there is suffering and adversity in the world, such darkly anarchic works of art will continue to thrive and flourish in spite of it all – even as the world we once knew crumbles and falls away beneath our very feet. And of this bitterly twisted but indisputable truth, the philosophically-minded frontman is only too keenly aware.
“You're always going to feel like you've been kicked freshly in the teeth when we as a species do something disappointing yet again, but there's still the potential for something else,” Dave notes of humanity’s perpetual failure to progress and learn from its prior mistakes. “And it's worth clinging to that on a personal level, but of course that's not what drives and animates the music. The music's a reaction to all the negativity in the world, and I think that's an entirely valid reaction. Music doesn't have to be hopeful. Sometimes it's good just to have something that recognises the chaos in your head, the static noise that comes on when you just can't abide the things that you're seeing people doing.”
'Endarkenment' is out now via Metal Blade