Anaal Nathrakh is a British Industrial Black Metal/Grindcore band formed in 1999 in Birmingham, England. They are currently signed to Metal Blade Records. The band’s name is Irish for snake’s breath (anál nathrach) and was taken from Merlin’s Charm of Making in John Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur. The band recorded two demos in 1999, which were later released as an album.
The band has released eleven studio albums, one EP, and one compilation album. The band has been praised for mixing elements of Grindcore, Black Metal, Industrial and other genres. The band was created in 1999 by multi-instrumentalist Mick Kenney and vocalist Dave Hunt.
This Is Black Metal Webzine talks with Dave about their latest offer “Endarkenment”, and their future plans!
This Is Black Metal: Hello Dave and thanks for this interview. How are you doing in these strange times?
Dave Hunt: Hi. No problem, thank you, too. I’m doing ok, albeit that the times are a continuing cause for concern. There is almost certainly going to be a significant spike in deaths here in the UK as a result of the government’s decision to largely abandon corona-related restrictions at Christmas. And then there’s the spectacle of the press here at the moment excitedly talking up the possibility of sending the navy against civilian fishermen, which hardly seems likely to foster goodwill to all men. Basically, it’s a great time to be alive if you revel in the fact that people are venal, selfish, short-sighted fuckwits. People nowadays often say it at the end of a year, and they don’t really mean it, but for once I think most people can agree: certain highlights – such as our new album! – aside, fuck 2020. For that matter, fuck 2019 simply because it led to 2020! Can’t wait to see what fresh hell awaits in 2021…
TIBM: So, you have a new album with the title “Endarkenment”! What can you tell us about its creation process? Also, why did you choose this name?
Dave: Well, the creation process was both a gradual build-up and exceedingly abrupt at the same time. The main part of the music came together absurdly quickly – Mick wrote most of the music in a burst in less than a week. I don’t know what goes on in his head sometimes, but it can be marvelous to see – even for someone who’s a talented music creator, that’s an incredible burst of inspiration. But at the same time, a lot of the themes that lie behind the title Endarkenment took a long time to coalesce in my mind. I was aware of various things that fed into the feeling that had been growing in my mind for some time. But the central idea that brought it all together, and made it all make sense as parts of one whole rather than as disparate events took time to realise. Essentially Endarkenment is the opposite of enlightenment, and the idea is that we, at least we in the West, have been living through a period of endarkenment which opposes the Enlightenment and the Enlightenment values and assumptions which have underpinned our society for well over a century. It comes out in various ways such as Brexit and the associated hard-right shift in the UK, many aspects of the Trump regime, rising nationalism across Europe, and so on and so on. Distrust of experts, rejection of science, irrational conspiracies and so on… They’re all features of current and recent times in many places, and they’re all part of what Endarkenment is intended to mean. As for the actual making of the album, Mick recorded the music at his place in California, then he came over here to the UK, and we recorded the vocals together in a windowless industrial unit in Birmingham. It was quite a change from recording the previous album in Orange County surrounded by palm trees and sunshine, haha! But it worked really well – it was unconventional by most bands’ standards, but for us, it brought a degree of focus that suited us well.
Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
TIBM: You made a lyric video for “The Age of Starlight Ends”! This is a bold move from you, as you have never done this before. What made you choose this song?
Dave: Yeah it’s a bit unusual for us, as we don’t typically release our lyrics at all, let alone draw attention to them with lyric videos. But it just seemed like a good idea – that’s roughly the basis of how we decide almost everything we do! Over the last couple of albums, we’ve been a bit more open about that kind of thing. We still don’t want to give everything away, we still want people who are interested in that stuff to think about it for themselves. But it just seems that if you’re hoping that people who are interested can find plenty to get their teeth into in your music, it doesn’t hurt to talk a little bit about what’s going on on that level. The choice of song was mostly a musical decision, we knew we wanted to use that song as one of the pre-release ‘singles’. But when we were considering what to do with it in terms of making a video or whatever, I just thought screw it, why not to a lyric video. There are some cool lines and ideas, and the subject matter suits the kind of thing you can make videos out of, so why not. Vince Edwards at Metal Blade actually made the video, and I think he did a great job.
TIBM: In the video of ” Endarkenment ” you give quotes of Gisela Stuart, George Orwell and others. Are these persons so important to you to use their quotes?
Dave: Orwell is certainly important, he’s important to everyone, everywhere I’d say. If you’re not familiar with his writing, especially 1984 and Animal Farm, then I’d suggest getting hold of them and paying close attention asap. In the light of recent history, 1984 will likely seem chillingly familiar in some respects. Gisela Stuart, no, she’s not important on a personal level particularly. I think she’s a fool. But the quote from her that we used in the video speaks to a wider phenomenon of expertise-denying populism, of which she’s just an example. It’s that trend in public discourse that’s the important thing. It’s important to note that the quotes aren’t necessarily there because we agree with them. They’re more like bitter reflections of the Endarkenment idea that the song is about. This is Anaal Nathrakh, not some fucking self-empowerment seminar – the idea that we’re actually saying the only expert that matters is you are fucking ridiculous, haha! But I think the video makes that point quite clearly. It was cool working with Dave Brodsky on it, and we’re really pleased with how it came out. It’s great.
Anaal Nathrakh – The Age of Starlight Ends (LYRIC VIDEO)
TIBM: In this album, I found that sometimes the choruses with clean vocals were like preaching! Could we say that Anaal Nathrakh may be the soundtrack of the Apocalypse?
Dave: Then that would make me a preacher? Not sure I can tolerate being called such a religious figure, haha! I think that with Endarkenment, it actually feels a bit more relevant to right now than something vague like the apocalypse. Well, unless you think we’re living through the early stages of the apocalypse now, which isn’t impossible I suppose. I mean, obviously, in general, the soundtrack to the apocalypse thing is certainly true of our music. But specifically with Endarkenment, I think it draws on and reflects the way the world has been over recent history, and how it seems to be heading in the near future. So if it’s the soundtrack to anything, I think the person who commented on our video on youtube got it about right – it’s the soundtrack for 2020.
TIBM: Anaal Nathrakh’s album covers are always unique, but this time you are perhaps more provocative than ever. I am talking of course about the cover edition with the pig. What can you tell us about this fantastic cover?
Dave: Ha, yes, it’s a striking image, isn’t it? It’s an idea I had years ago, and in fact, we discussed doing it just as a piece of art way back then. Really it was just a depiction of something fucking horrible we had in mind at the time. But then when we came to discuss what to put on the cover of Endarkenent, the idea cropped up again, I think Mick may have mentioned it late one night as we were walking out of the industrial estate where we recorded. And all of a sudden, that same image seemed to have much more relevance, to be a much stronger statement and encapsulation of meaning. Obviously, you can take images on various levels, and I think Mick would think of it mostly in terms of how striking it is, and how memorable. But I see it as a depiction of significant parts of the human condition circa 2020 – as puerile and blunt as it may seem, at the same time it’s a perfectly serious statement about the position of the human individual in society. As with all of our covers, we made the artwork ourselves – I described what I had in mind to Mick, and he put the image together, then we tweaked it between us. I have a pretty good head for art, but no talent whatsoever at actually taking pictures, while Mick is a talented visual artist, so when we put our heads together we can come up with some powerful stuff, I think. Certainly in this case I’d say so.
TIBM: In this album you have 3 guests (G-Rash, Jason Suecof, Corpse Dick), is there a story behind these choices?
TIBM: What still pisses you off after all these years? What is the fuel for the angry Anaal Nathrakh music/lyrics?
Dave: Fucking everything! If your inspiration is at least in part fuelled by a loathing of the general spectacle of human failings, how could you not be drowning in motivational gasoline in these times? If your obsessions include evil and the realisation of the darkest instincts people have, and your inspirational cup runneth not over, what, have there not been enough children in concentration camps? Not enough bastards in power? Not enough cruelty and devastation around the world? Not enough violent, tribal instincts making themselves evident in the public’s behaviour and attitudes? Not enough stupidity, selfishness, predation? Not enough war? Actors often have to consider ‘what’s my motivation?’, and that’s just part of acting. But if you’re making music like this and you even have to ask yourself that question, you have no business carrying on.
Anaal Nathrakh – Full Show – Live at Wacken Open Air 2015
TIBM: In my opinion, Anaal Nathrakh`s lyrics are viewed as philosophical. Which are your favourite philosophers?
Dave: Well, they’re not exclusively philosophical, but yeah, there are certainly influences from philosophy. Probably my favourite philosopher is Nietzsche. That’s not to say I don’t think some aspects of his work are problematic or that I don’t have issues with some of what he had to say. But I find much that’s rewarding and fascinating in his work, too. If anyone reading this can access the BBC Sounds website, recently there was actually a very good drama that examined both the inspirational and the threatening aspects of his work that you can probably still listen to. It was named simply after his most famous book, so you’ll find it if you go to the site and search for Also Sprach Zarathustra. Probably the other most significant philosopher for me personally is J. L. Mackie, because he was among the first overt moral error theorists, and that’s something I’ve done a lot of work on myself. And the best living philosophers in that area are probably Richard Joyce, Jonas Olson and Bart Streumer. But all that’s a bit heavy and hard core. On a more literary kind of level that non-specialists can relate to, I suppose I’d include people like Schopenhauer. Or Bertrand Russell’s popular material such as ‘Why I am not a Christian’ or ‘A free man’s worship’. And as I’m only just learning myself, one of the best philosophical resources for understanding today’s world is probably Beaudrillard. His kind of stuff isn’t really my area so far, but I’m intrigued by bits and pieces I’ve come across recently, so I’m curious to find out more myself.
TIBM: You and Mick are so many years together in Anaal Nathrakh. What is the secret ingredient for a band to last for so long?
Dave: To relate to one another as people, not as musicians or whatever. I live in the UK and Mick lives on the opposite side of America, so we primarily use WhatsApp to talk to one another when we’re at home. And if I look back through history, we’ve talked plenty recently, but most of it hasn’t even been about music. Obviously, we do talk about music too, of course. But I think we relate to one another as individuals who happen to work on music together, and that’s a strong foundation for whatever else might come along. I think it’s also key that we each respect what the other is good at and wants to do. If Mick tried to tell me what to write about, or if I tried to tell him what to play, it wouldn’t work. But we don’t do that. Again, obviously, we talk about that kind of stuff, but when we make music together, it’s based on each respecting the other and each bringing different strengths to the enterprise, rather than either of us trying to push the other to do anything in particular.
TIBM: How did you guys meet each other?
Dave: Just randomly through mutual friends and going to the rock-type drinking places in Birmingham. We were teenagers, Mick hadn’t long moved to Birmingham, and I was one of the only people who knew what the band logos he’d drawn on his jacket were. It all grew from there, really.
TIBM: Anaal Nathrakh always tries to push the limit of Extreme Metal music into the next level. Have you ever been afraid that with these moves you will lose fans?
Dave: No, not really. You can’t chase that kind of thing, or you end up with music that sounds like it was written by a committee. I know that some bands, or perhaps a better word would be some acts, consciously do that kind of thing. But that’s not us. We do what feels right to us to do, and that’s it.
Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind of Horror (FULL ALBUM)
TIBM: Let`s go to some more personal questions! How did you get into Extreme Metal music?
Dave: I kind of instinctively knew it was out there, I just didn’t know what it was called or where to find it. So I just kept looking for the most extreme stuff I could find, until I found something satisfying. So I went very quickly through Maiden, Metallica, Slayer and so on. And then eventually I found the Gods of Grind compilation, and a German kid on a school exchange trip who played me Beherit and Cancer and Carcass, and I finally knew I’d more or less found what I was looking for.
TIBM: Who are your influences as a singer?
Dave: King Diamond, Attila, Garm, Matti Way, Dean Jones. More than anything, though, the way I approach it isn’t to think of influences, but just to think of the sound I have in my head and trying to make that sound and get that feeling across. So those guys are more like singers I think make cool sounds, and who I sometimes make sounds that are a bit like.
Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law (FULL ALBUM)
TIBM: What are you doing outside of Anaal Nathrakh?
Dave: Over the summer I got a PhD for a thesis I’d been working on for years, so that was a pretty big milestone. And up until the pandemic came along, I’d been starting to work on some conceptual art stuff with a guy I know. That world was entirely new to me, and although it seemed stuffed with pretentious rubbish, it’s also got some nuggets that I found really striking, and the work we were coming up with was fascinating to me. So hopefully that will be something I can return to after the virus fucks off. As for Mick, you may be aware that he works as a producer, producing and recording bands over in Orange County. He’s worked with some quite prominent names like Motionless in White and Carnifex and so on. Often slightly different from Anaal Nathrakh, but generally extreme kind of stuff still. And he has a side project called Make Them Die Slowly which has put out a release or two now. So basically we’re pretty busy.
TIBM: Let`s get in the covid-19 situation! It seems difficult for a band to tour. Are you going to do some live streaming shows in order to promote the new album?
Dave: We can’t, really, because we live on different continents. And our live bandmates are sprinkled here, there and everywhere. So regardless of fans being able to come and see us play because of the virus, we can’t even get to each other to be able to play in an otherwise empty room! To be honest I’m skeptical about streaming shows anyway. Playing in an empty room to a camera, which then broadcasts to people sitting in front of laptops… It just can’t have the visceral sensation of a real live show. I can completely understand why people might want to do it or want to watch that sort of thing. And hey, maybe if we did it ourselves we’d see why it’s a hugely rewarding thing to do. But as a prospect, it just doesn’t feel right to me for the kind of music we play. Something like the Berliner Philhamoniker giving online concerts, that makes a great deal of sense to me. And I know they have a very popular and active streaming setup. But for Extreme Metal? I’m just not sure.
TIBM: We reach the end of this interview. Dave thank you so much for your time, the last words are yours.
Dave: No problem, thank you too.
Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment (FULL ALBUM)