Anaal Nathrakh On Finding Inspiration From Our World’s Ugly Side
Dave Hunt explains how the dark side of our planet inspired the lyrics on the band’s ninth studio album
Words: Phil Weller
To the casual bystander, heavy metal music is often tarred with a brush tainted with a great misconception; that all its thuggish brutality stems from some form of primordial, caveman like stupidity. Such hellish noises surely cannot be the result of intelligence and a deft musical craftsmanship. But the ironic reality is that the heavier and more brutish a band’s music seems to be, the smarter the characters behind it often are. Indeed all music takes a certain degree of intelligence; even dumb sounding ‘one hook’ pop songs are usually built by clever minds, and ones which know how to make a highly marketable product at that. As animalistic as heavy metal music can be, it is, more often than not, born of ideas and reactions to things that really matter in the world. A macro thinking that strives for peace and a world in which we can feel proud to be living in.
Napalm Death for instance – whose heaviness is rarely matched – may sound like Satan just stepped on some Lego while trying to go for a sneaky piss in the dead of night, tackle real world issues. From political corruption to the evil of slumlords, the velocity of their music is the channelling of anger fuelled by many of the world’s injustices, a peaceful core exploding for the greater good.
For fellow Brummie Dave Hunt, who formed Anaal Nathrakh back in 1998, his story and approach is very much the same: “When there are really important things going on in the world it feels a bit like a cop out to sing about anything else,” he says.
The press release currently doing the rounds in support of their new studio album, The Whole Of The Law, may talk of a band created for the purpose of being “the soundtrack to Armageddon”, but there is much more to the record than that. Beneath unrelenting blastbeats and forthright guitars are the musings of a man who is deeply perturbed by our world.
“There’s been a lot of things that I have been inspired by, things that have directly happened to us since [last album] Desideratum, and songs that are inspired by current affairs such as the Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis. He had a very modern, progressive outlook towards the economy and his resignation was demanded by the powers that be in Brussels because they simply couldn’t have a challenge to their neo-liberalism. That may sound fairly dry, abstruse and a bit boring, but what it amounts to is that the world we live in is being run by and for people who do not have your best interests at heart. And all of a sudden that becomes something worth consideration.
“I saw a news report about a town in Syria which had been under siege for a long time; people were starving, forced to eat tree bark and stuff like that just to survive. Then it came out that there were plans to use chemical weapons in the area and therefore on them. This ten year old boy just said ‘if they’re going to use chemical weapons can they just get on with it? But can they make them smell of bread so at least we can die happy?’ And that just killed me. And I heard someone on the radio talk about the people on a bus that was hit by a suicide bomber; they paid 10 Lira to die that day. I just sat there quietly and tried to absorb it all. So thoughts like that inspired a song on the new record called …So We Can Die Happy.”
“Then there’s the thought about ‘is it cruel to bring children into the world?’ when it’s in the state that it is, is this world such a horrible place that it would be wrong to bring one of your own children into that? People have been genuinely driven to consider that and it’s a very powerful thing to be thinking about. My thoughts on that went into the latest song to be streamed from the new record, Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion.”
With such context in mind, the canvas of the song suddenly becomes more vivid and striking. The reality of the lyrical content hits you hard and makes your heart feel like it is made of lead, all this working to heighten your appreciation of their aural assault. Even if you find the record off-putting in its virile nastiness, suddenly those unrelenting blastbeats and forthright guitars sound more purposeful, haunted by what they’ve seen and eager to speak up.
“The one line I draw with Anaal Nathrakh,” he concludes, “is that we can maybe expose people to things to what they otherwise might not have been. It’s not an admission for anarchism or anything like that however, I don’t see this band as a political platform; I just think there’s a lot of artistic merit in simply painting a picture, in presenting an idea. It’s up to an individual as to how they respond to that, but maybe we can make the world a better place in some way, even if we just improve someone’s day.”
The Whole Of The Law is out October 28th via Metal Blade Records