Anaal Nathrakh has been storming through the gates of Extreme Metal since 1999. With every album gradually becoming bigger, grander, and more vile than the last, the band returned in 2018 to unleash their 10th album, A New Kind Of Horror through Metal Blade Records. I recently got to ask V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (vocals) a few questions about what is going on in the world of Anaal Nathrakh right now. ENJOY!
Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview! It’s a great honor to be able to help promote you guys once again and to talk about a fantastic new album.
Thank you for the support.
A New Kind of Horror comes out September 28th through Metal Blade, how does it feel to have this 3rd album through Metal Blade coming out?
It’s a good feeling. We’ve been looking forward to it coming out for what seems like a long time – we handed it over to the label quite a while back, but the release dates, schedules, blah blah blah – it’s exiting that it’s finally come out. We’re proud of it, and now it can finally spread its wings.
As described in the press release, this album is absolutely not a happy album and is easily one of the most intense albums you’ve released to date. Was that the approach going into this album, or did it come out this way naturally?
It came out naturally. That’s just the way we work – we do everything mostly by instinct. We have an idea, an atmosphere, a feeling in our heads, and making an album is a matter of translating that into music in the most direct way possible. Basically it’s not so much about writing music, it’s about letting it out, pouring out the thing in our heads. I think if we went into it saying ‘ok, this has to be intense’ or whatever then it could come out forced. But we don’t plan in that kind of way. We think ‘ok, this is going to be Anaal Nathrakh’ and then follow where that leads us.
I genuinely love the progression of the band over the years and hearing what’s happening with A New Kind of Horror takes all of my favorite elements of the band but somehow makes it even catchier, yet more chaotic and intense than ever before. With this style of songwriting, how do you know what direction you want the song to go in musically or thematically?
Thanks, I’m glad to hear you thought so. We don’t know what direction we want to go in until we do it. We have ideas, little things we want to include and sometimes there’ll be a rough sense of how we want a song to feel. And there’ll be a general atmosphere we have in mind for an album. But those are just signposts, and once we’ve started, the most important thing is then that the song should feel right as a whole. So what you start out to do can end up some way from what you in fact do. But that’s fine, and writing in an unconstrained way gives more room for the kind of innovative little things that keep music fresh, I think. Mick can write precise things perfectly easily, of course. But for Anaal Nathrakh, we follow where the music leads.
Lyrically, this is easily one of the most thought provoking albums I’ve heard in this current political climate. No matter where you stand, it’s the kind of lyrics to make you stand back and think about things. How do you feel about the political climate today? Do you see things getting better any time soon?
I’m glad you thought so – the intention is for people to think for themselves about the ideas that run through the album, not to take our thoughts and simply adopt or ignore them. I think we’re in pretty tortured times, politically speaking. One of my favourite journalists is a film maker called Adam Curtis. I haven’t seen all that much of his stuff, but what I have seen has a brilliant way of joining the dots of history. And I think we need perspectives like his to understand the royal clusterfuck that the world is threatening to turn into. There are deep seated reasons going back decades for the way things are today, but at the same time there are currents in society which often get in the way of understanding that. Certain narratives become dominant, and crowd out any other way of understanding what’s going on. That’s part of the thinking behind this album’s parallels between war a century ago and today – no other phenomenon showcases the exclusive concentration around one narrative as much as war does. Anything other than dogged, bloody minded adherence to the official line is considered treasonous. No regard for the fact that the other side are doing exactly the same, and always think they’re exactly as justified and fighting to protect and survive just as much. It’s something that really comes out in the work of the artists from WW1 – contrast the ever-more complex and abstract images produced by those on the Allied side with the work of someone like Otto Dix. There’s more common humanity and horror expressed than the narratives at the time could have ever allowed. And the same kind of thing persists today – my own country is currently embroiled in terribly ugly political divisions, and again we’ve heard calls on the fringe right for more patriotism – by which they mean ‘agree with my side and come to see the other side as enemies of the country’ – even though those not on the fringe right are still just as concerned with the national interest. Create a dominant narrative of being embattled – not arriving at an understanding with friends who seek to cooperate, but being forced to stand strong against enemies who seek to undermine. That’s just one tiny example from close to home. In general, I think the whole climate is increasingly fucked up – not just here, but in many other places, too. And no, I don’t think things will get better.
Brandan Schieppati was able to contribute some vocals to one of my favorite songs on the album, Vi Coactus. What was it like to add his vocals onto this song?
It was good fun. Brandan and Mick have been good friends for years, and it was great to be able to get Brandan on the album. He seemed to really like the stuff, and had a laugh recording, so it was good all round. And it came out well, I think. His style compliments what I was doing, and but it’s also subtly different and adds an extra flavour.
Forward! Was released as the first single - How was that decided as the first single?
We picked it ourselves, because we love the song and because it’s something a bit different. It’s an out and out head banger, and that might sound strange for us, but if you get the feeling in it and maybe catch some of the lyrics you’ll realize it’s absolutely Anaal Nathrakh at heart. So it’s a cool, possibly slightly unexpected but nonetheless powerful song, and that seemed like a good thing to introduce the album with. There’s plenty of other atmospheres on the album and it’s not like we’ve completely changed musical direction, Forward! is just one facet of a complicated whole. And it’s been quite successful as far as we can tell - the teaser video Metal Blade put on youtube has quite a lot of hits, as does the track on Spotify.
Is there any other single been determined yet from the album, or is that still to be decided?
Yeah, not long back we released a full video for Obscene as Cancer. That was a great thing to do - the film makers knocked it out of the park and delivered something which is a perfect distillation of and complement to the song. The song is particularly important in the context of the album because it’s the one based on a Wilfred Owen poem from World War 1, which is one of the motifs of the album as a whole. It’s not like a history concept album, and part of the point of reflecting on WW1 is to see parallels with the world today, but that poem in its own right is one of the most profoundly affecting pieces of writing I’ve ever come across. So to have the song and video we made under the influence of that poem as one of the ‘singles’ released in the run-up to the album coming out made perfect sense.
2019 will be 20 years since the start of Anaal Nathrakh. How does it feel to be able to say the band has lasted for two decades now?
Yeah, strangely enough I was thinking not long back about when I went on tour with Benediction, and took the first Anaal Nathrakh demo that we’d just recorded with me. I didn’t realize it was twenty years ago, and it doesn’t seem like that long even now I’m aware. The thing is, although it sounds like a big deal, and I can see why people might think it meant something, it doesn’t matter to us. We don’t really care that we’ve been doing this for a week, a year, a decade. We’re interested in what we’re doing, not where we’ve been. To a certain extent we’ll occasionally pause and think ‘not bad for a couple of kids messing about in the front room of a house that hadn’t been tidied up since the 50’s’. But we’re not particularly sentimental, and we have no sense whatsoever of resting on our laurels. We’re not comfortable self-satisfied prats, we’re hungry kids who feel driven forwards. Still.
What is next for Anaal Nathrakh?
We have a number of shows lined up, and we’ve been working on loads more shows that we can’t announce yet. So we’re going to be pretty busy. Beyond that, who knows? Aside from lining up live shows, we’ve never been ones for planning all that much, so we’ll see what happens!
What is next for you outside of Anaal Nathrakh?
Two main things. I also sing for Benediction, and we’re working towards recording the first new Benediction album for ten years in the next few months. We’re not sure of dates etc yet, but it’s finally happening and it’s exciting to be in that position after so long. The new material is sounding really strong, and we’ll have a brand new track on a compilation CD that Nuclear Blast are putting out soon. And alongside that I’m coming towards the end of a project I’ve been working on for what seems like forever. It’s a big body of work, and I’ve spent virtually the whole time for about 5 or 6 years with it in the back of my mind even when I’m not consciously working on it. But if things go according to plan, I’ll be finishing that off in the new year. So within the next twelve months or so I should be done with one of the things that has contextualized my life for a long time. That’ll be a very strange feeling.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this interview. As a long time fan of the band, I simply love the direction you guys go on every album and it’s amazing to hear where you are in 2018. Before we are done is there anything else you would like to mention that I hadn’t brought up yet?
Thanks a lot.
Anaal Nathrakh- A New Kind of Horror available NOW through Metal Blade Records