With „A New Kind Of Horror“, the British duo ANAAL NATHRAKH have released a spectacular album, with which they have set new standards in extreme metal after several years of standing on their feet. Singer Dave Hunt explains to which horror the title refers, what King Diamond has to do with ANAAL NATHRAKH and what he thinks about Brexit.
Your new album is entitled „A New Kind Of Horror“ – does that title refer to the in some aspects „renewed“ style of your music?
That wasn’t the intention, though you can certainly take it that way if you want to. It was more of a statement about the way the world evolves. There’s always a new kind of horror, often in some way at a level which was previously unimagined, or just as importantly, unrealised. So from the eternally escalating horrors of wars throughout history to the shocking realisations brought to us through things like the Milgram experiment or the things that happened during the inquisition or at S-21 or Abu Ghraib. Only recently there was a new level of ICBM technology unveiled to the world, and we have no idea yet of the things that are just around the corner. Philippa Foot’s trolley problem is famous, and is still debated and riffed upon today, but we don’t even know how to work it out in the context of driverless cars. So what the hell are we going to realise next? So yeah, you can read the newness as referring to the music in a stylistic sense, but that’s not necessarily the main thrust of the reason for the title.
Indeed, it’s different then the last records in many ways. Was that a concrete approach, to make something new this time?
Make something new, yes, of course. But we weren’t trying to distance ourselves from other albums we’ve done. “A New Kind of Horror” is its own thing, and we didn’t feel the need to make it the same as or different from anything – it is itself. We naturally evolve over time, and so the music does, too.
This development is really rejuvenating ANAAL NATHRAKH, I’d say – the last albums were a bit too close to each other, musicwise. Would you subscribe that?
If you feel it’s a rejuvenation, then great, and yes, we do feel that aspect ourselves. But no, I wouldn’t agree about our recent albums. And I’m not sure that yours is a feeling many people would share. But then it’s largely impossible to know, as it’s such a subjective thing, and everyone is at a different point in their appreciation of this kind of music. For example, often when I hear supposedly new metal music, I just hear bits of old Morbid Angel or At The Gates or Entombed or Slayer or whatever. And I’m a bit underwhelmed because it’s not new to me. Not all new stuff, you understand, just a proportion of it. Because my background as a listener makes the similarities striking, but also because my appreciation of such things was to an extent fixed by what I heard in my teens, as it is for most people. But there are plenty of people who’ve never heard any of that stuff, and for whom the new stuff is unbelievably exciting. They see newness that is not always obvious to me, at least initially. Their experience isn’t any less valid than mine. That’s a bit of a tangent though. The bottom line is that no, I think the last couple of albums we did were distinct from one another, and were both really strong. It’s not wrong to disagree with that, but it seems quite obviously the case to me. Everyone’s different.
This time, you’ve done some crazy experiments, especially regarding the voice – successfully, by the way, it sounds amazing. What inspired you to try this kind of „power-metal-influenced“-vocals, so call it like that?
Thanks, I’m glad you liked the mixture of styles. We’ve actually been doing that since our demos, but it often seems that people only really notice it on the more recent stuff we’ve done. Regardless, so long as it sounds good, I’m glad! The basic idea is to be free to do whatever feels like the right way to respond to the piece of music that the vocals are over. I seem to be able to be a bit of a chameleon, and there’s a lot of different ideas and different things particular parts of the music inspire, so the end result is often quite varied. That’s cool, to us at least. It’s one of the things we both enjoyed about classic King Diamond albums – they were already old when we got to experience them, but the way he used different voices all the time seemed really fresh and innovative to us. Just listen thought to Abigail and see for yourself. I’m not saying that we’re copying his approach, but we do share in it to an extent. It’s what feels right to us, and that’s always what guides us.
In general, the album is way more diverse then the last one – did that just happen, or was it intentional?
It’s like I said a moment ago, we go with what feels right. So no, it’s not something we planned, because if we’d planned it then that would have almost paradoxically constrained the way we wrote the album. And we don’t really ‘do’ constraints. But neither is it surprising – our albums usually have quite an assortment of styles and atmospheres. It’s all about letting an abundance of ideas and feelings out.
What do you like in this album most, why do you think, it’s the best ANAAL-NATHRAKH-release so far?
We’re too close to single individual things out as our favourite. The album is a whole thing to us. It’s the best thing we’ve done because we like it the most. It’s not really the kind of thing you can use a scorecard for, or the kind of thing that we’re going to mount a defence of as if it were a thesis or a plaintiff. It’s all about feeling, and to us, this feels like the most dynamic, forceful and exciting thing we’ve done.
Are you fully satisfied with the result of your work – and are you satisfied with the feedback you got so far?
Yes and no. Yes because we made it, and we take responsibility for it being how we wanted it to be. But no because if you make something like this yourself there’s always going to be some tiny thing that you realise you could have changed. But that’s only because you’re so close to it. The point isn’t spotting things to tinker with, it’s knowing when to stop. In terms of feedback, there have been a few 10/10 reviews and things like that, but obviously they’re not the whole story, that’s not how it works. We try to not pay too much attention to that kind of thing, because it doesn’t help from an artist’s point of view. Either you see great reviews and you think you’re amazing, which just makes you more likely to get cocky and end up a victim of hubris. Or you see bad reviews and think you’re shit when in reality the only way to do worthwhile artistic work is to follow your own vision and let people feel that for themselves. So feedback is best treated as a minor curiosity from a band’s point of view. It’s useful for many other things for other people, you just shouldn’t think too much about it yourself.
What is the album about, lyricwise?
That’s a bit too much of a vague question. There are lots of things going on in the lyrics, that’s one reason why we included an explanation of some of the ideas in the liner notes that people who buy the album get, and in the notes that journalists who download the press version get. I mentioned a few of the themes at the start of the interview. And one of the big influences on the lyrics was poetry from the first world war by people like Wilfred Owen. And art by people like Otto Dix.
And how important are the lyrics in the overall concept?
How important are lyrics to the concept? I’m not sure that with music like this you can really have a concept without the lyrics, or at least with the vocals reflecting something – otherwise every extreme metal album would be conceptually just be about variously emotionally inflected repeated bludgeoning. Maybe that’s not the case, maybe the music is more vivid than that. Actually, it often is. But certainly in our case, beyond a general feeling, the conceptual side is probably most obvious in the lyrics, albeit that it’s also part of the delivery and the overall feel of the music. Lyrics should add something to music that wouldn’t be there without them, otherwise why bother? Even if it’s only in terms of expressing something which is incomprehensible to the listener, but which provides the emotional or expressive fuel for the performance which the listener does experience.
Why is the artwork the perfect visualisation for this album, where is the link to lyrics or title?
The artwork depicts Mars, the ancient god of war, expelling gas over a first world war era battlefield, as modern nuclear-capable missiles rain down in the background. That captures a number of the more war-related themes of the title. And it’s all in moody, poisonous dark green and black tones. I think that establishes a sufficient degree of link with the music and tone of the album, and with some of the things going on in the lyrics. Though you’ll probably get more out of it if you think about it for yourself a bit. There’s more to the album than just those atmospheres, but good album artwork contextualises the overall experience of an album, and I think this does that.
And last but not least: When can we expect you back on german stages promoting „A New Kind Of Horror“ live?
We played at Party-San a few weeks ago, and we’ll briefly be in Germany again in November. Hopefully after that we’ll get the chance to get to more parts of the country next year. We’ve been working with our live agents a lot on shows this year and next, and we’ll be able to announce more soon – it’s just tat because of the way the contracts work, you can’t always tell people what’s happening. Frustrating, but that’s one good reason to have agents to sort things out! I don’t think of gigs as promoting albums – that seems a cynical way to look at it and an outdated one too, since selling albums isn’t the main focus like it used to be 20 years ago. The way we see it is that shows are events in their own right.
One Of-Topic-Question, if it’s allowed: What about Benediction – any news? I read, you’ve with Dan Bate a new bass-player in your ranks – is that a clue that we can expect some new music as well?
Yes, we’re well into the writing of the new album. We played a couple of brand new songs for the first time at With Full Force this summer, and we have a new track coming out on a Nuclear Blast compilation imminently. I won’t make any rash promises about when the release date will be just yet, but finally it really is actually happening. We’re feeling really good about the new material, and I should be meeting up with Daz and Rewy later this week for a session going over some of the material and ideas we’ve got demoed and ready to demo. It’s all feeling pretty exciting.
Let’s finish the interview with a short brainstorming. What comes to your mind first reading the following terms:
Cancer: A band I liked when I was first getting into properly heavy metal, who I connect with Germany, strangely enough. I went on a school exchange visit to Hamburg when I was at school, and one of the German kids played me a cassette of Dead Shall Rise, which was one of my first exposures to that kind of thing. And then years later, with Benediction I shared a stage with them in Germany.
Brexit: Fuck Brexit. And fuck the execrable assholes who lied and cheated their way through the campaign and convinced sometimes well-meaning turkeys to vote for Christmas. Brexit is a hard-right disease the Conservative party has been suffering from for decades, and now they’ve infected a whole country. In the name of ‘democracy’, democracy in the UK has been suspended. It’s that serious.
Choirs: ‘Carols from King’s’ at Christmas – a weird, painfully middle class tradition which I only heard of a couple of years ago, but which somehow seems appropriate at Christmas, even though I vaguely destest it. Also, the fact that I was in a school choir led by a teacher who was convicted for paedophilia years later. I was never affected, and was actually shocked to hear it’d happened, but still a strange combination of memories and thoughts.
A band, even more extreme then ANAAL NATHRAKH: Skullflower (“Fucked On A Pile Of Corpses”). Consumer Electronics (“Estuary English”). Masonna (anything, but I like “Frequency LSD”).
Theresa May: An inept, haunted scarecrow. On one hand I almost feel sorry for her. Then I remember how much I despise her all over again. All she can do is kowtow to the bastards while clinging to power for its own sake, to the profound detriment of the country.
Your favorite album at the moment: Probably the new Aphex Twin release, “Collapse”.
ANAAL NATHRAKH in 10 years: Older. Not wiser.