Since 1998, ANAAL NATHRAKH have been the soundtrack to the apocalypse. Unrelenting, unforgiving and utterly aggressive the duo from Birmingham have been a staple of British extreme music for years. 2016 sees the release of album number nine, The Whole of the Law, and will see the band continue their explosive sound. We caught up with vocalist Dave Hunt to lift the lid on the new album, it’s themes and messages, alongside discussing the band’s fusion of styles, British metal and sporadic touring.
You new album, The Whole of the Law, is coming out at the end of October. What can fans expect from the new record?
Dave: That’s a slightly tricky question to answer! I don’t know what they are going to be expecting, so it’s difficult to say. As far as I’m concerned it’s largely a piece of our recent stuff but better, it’s what it sounds like to me. I spoke to a guy the other day who said he thought it was a mix of the last album and In The Constellation of the Black Widow, which was a couple of albums before and he thought that sounded like a good thing! Whether it sounds like a good thing to anyone else I don’t know but I don’t know, I think it’s more for people like you, journalists, to decide how to describe things! We just do the best we can and it is what it is.
It’s been two years since your last record, Desideratum, how has the band progressed in that time?
Dave: We’ve just got better at doing what we do, I think. Practise! As much as anything else, but the idea is basically the same but we have different inspirations and ideas from day to day so it is a new version of a largely similar thing.
So with the album title, The Whole Of The Law, could you explain what that title means?
Dave: One of the ideas we had for the album title was actually used as a song title on the album, We Will Fucking Kill You. After I sat and thought about it for a bit that didn’t sound like the best album title because it is possibly a little juvenile and also perhaps it could be misinterpreted slightly. But, the title we did go for, The Whole Of The Law, is a kind of sideways reference to the same idea. It strikes me that there is a current in human psychology in general really, certainly in the way that nations behave towards one another and often the way individuals do. Simply winning or simply stopping someone else hurting you isn’t enough, when countries are at war for example, they don’t say what we are going to do is disarm the enemy then explain to them why they disagree with their principles. Wars are fought under slogans of annihilate the enemy, crush the opposition. There is something hysterically emphatic about it and it seems to me that filters down into a lot of other aspects of society and psychology.
So would you say that the themes and messages contained on the album are actually a reflection of the society we live in?
Dave: For the most part, yeah because everything is a reflection of society. There is no art, I use the term loosely, I don’t want to sound too up my own arse! But there is no art that doesn’t have values attached to it. They are either trying to promote those values or as a reaction against them, so I think everything is like that.
The sound of the record is trademark ANAAL NATHRAKH. Could you explain the recording process for the record?
Dave: It was similar to how we’ve done all of our stuff really. Mick [Kenney, guitars/bass/programming] writes music, largely in his head, it’s more a matter of getting the right feeling than it is picking a particular fret on a guitar. He gets a lot of ideas swimming around and then he sat down over the course of a month or so and layed down the music from scratch to end. And then, in this case, he came over to Birmingham to record the vocals, which is a bit of a shame because if it was the other way round I would of got to have gone to California! [laughs] But no, instead we recorded it in Birmingham and then he went back to California and started mixing and mastering, and then it was just a matter of sending files via the internet, us both auditioning them, making notes and making changes. It was a bit faster, that phase of things, this time around. The last album, it took months and months, we just couldn’t get happy with it, but this time with applying lessons we’ve learnt along the way, we’re pretty happy that’s it’s been a lot quicker this time. I think it has turned out well, I’m proud of how it sounds!
And with it being your ninth record, how do you think it holds up in comparison to your back catalogue?
Dave: That’s definitely one for you to answer not me! [laughs] Generally speaking, I’ve said this in interviews before, if you’re making music, especially if you have as much control over it as we have because we record it and everything as well, unless you think it is the best thing you have ever done you haven’t finished yet. I firmly think that this album, in terms of comparing it to other stuff I don’t bloody know, but I think it’s great! That will do me!
You mentioned earlier about sending files during the recording process via the internet. Throughout your time in ANAAL NATHRAKH, the internet has really exploded into what it is today. Does that really help or hinder your development as a band?
Dave: I supposed it helped it by not getting in the way of things, Mick and I talk to one another and aside from physically recording vocals, we can work together in exactly the same way we did when he lived two miles away. We don’t necessarily talk every day or anything but we talk very frequently, and we can send each other test mixes or ideas virtually in real time. So we are relying on the internet and it wasn’t around, or at least as prominently, when we first started but we haven’t been forced to work any other way. So I couldn’t tell you if it makes it easy, it seems like it is a great help!
Since you’ve been in ANAAL NATHRAKH in the late 90s through to now, the landscape of extreme metal has changed somewhat. Do you believe that the scene today, especially in the UK, is in a healthy place?
Dave: In some ways it is hard to be entirely sure, again it’s more from the perspective of people who are engaged in watching it, journalists and so on. The stuff I’ve come across that is recent is easily as good as stuff that was around years ago. I think that people, people in general, individuals not necessarily, but on-mass, people will always have creative responses to the world and all that kind of thing. And it’s not going anywhere, there will always be inventive and new takes on things so I think things are okay.
Very much the sound of ANAAL NATHRAKH can be best described as a fusion of various styles across extreme metal. What sort of influences do you bring when it comes to writing new music? Do you pay attention to a particular style or just go with the flow?
Dave: Definitely the latter because we aren’t actually aware of sub-genres. First of all we never really payed attention to them to begin with and second of all I don’t even know what people call things nowadays! We just don’t see the same divisions between things as other people sometimes seem to. For example if we are doing ANAAL NATHRAKH music, it doesn’t seem like we are mixing anything together, we are doing one thing. That’s how it feels to us. So we just don’t recognise sub-genres or anything, we don’t notice it at all.
And I guess that’s better if you just notice it and just listen to anything that is considered metal?
Dave: Well we listen to a lot of stuff that’s not considered metal either! We listen to all sorts of things, I personally see very little difference between some very dark metal and… The other day I was listening to some classical radio station on the internet, I think it’s from Greece or something, I heard a piece that I had never heard before. The atmosphere and so on that were in that were no different than some of the atmospheres that are in some very dark and dramatic metal music. I would listen to the two largely interchangeably to be honest!
And really, my last question for you, with the record coming out at the end of October, what’s next for ANAAL NATHRAKH after the release? Do you have much future touring in the works?
Dave: Yeah, we’ve got some bits and pieces. We tend not to be the kind of band that does album, six week block touring, six months off, another six weeks. We do things a bit more piece-meal than that. We’re in the middle of some live dates, we got back from Japan a couple of weeks ago and around the time of the album release, we’re back out doing some European dates and we’ve got a couple of things we’re discussing for next year. So there’s usually something bubbling away in the background, but we play it by ear, we try not to plan things too much because then it becomes predictable and stale. I like keep on our toes with it. Keeping things unpredictable so it’s a bit of a surprise, that’s cool, that keeps things fresh for us!
Well thank you for taking the time to talking to Distorted Sound, best of luck with the album release!
Dave: Cheers, thank you.
The Whole of the Law is set for release on October 28 via Metal Blade Records.
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