ANAAL NATHRAKH’s duo has been serving us nihilistic and misanthropic extreme metal albums since 1999. The band has shown no signs of slowing down and, with the alliance between V.I.T.R.I.O.L. and Irrumator, the dark minds are put in synchronicity, creating an effective extreme music machine! Some words concerning AN’s latest album “Endarkenment“, are given by Dave Hunt…
– Good evening from Athens and TheGallery.gr. First of all congratulations for your new album, which is great! “Endarkenment” was released on 2/10/20. Are you pleased with the response and the reviews so far?
Dave Hunt: Hi, and thanks, glad you like it. To the extent that we’re aware of the response, yes, it’s been good as far as we can tell. Though we don’t pay too much attention. I don’t mean that it doesn’t matter whether anyone likes our music, I just don’t think it does a band much good to spend much time reading their own press. Reviews etc are great for other people’s music, but when it’s your own, I think it’s best to concentrate on whether you’re happy with the music yourself. That’s because if you read good reviews it can give you an inflated sense of your own brilliance, which isn’t healthy. And if you read bad reviews, it can get you down, when really you have no reason to dwell on such things. So the only way to make good music, I think, is to satisfy yourself. Beyond that, if people like it, that’s great, and we always appreciate fans’ enthusiasm. But it’s best not to spend too much time on reviews yourself. Having said all that, the streaming figures have been very good, with over a million streams on Spotify alone in less than two weeks, the album has charted on the rock charts in a couple of countries, and so on. And I’ve seen fan comments like ‘soundtrack for 2020’ – with the fucked up situation that implies. So it’s been good.
– With what procedure/method have you composed this new album? Did the whole crazy situation with COVID-19 affect the way you worked on the record this time?
Dave Hunt: Well, we completed work on the album just before the pandemic really hit in this part of the world, so we were spared the worst of it. So that was comparatively straight forward for us – there are only two of us, so Mick wrote and recorded all the music in a ridiculously intense burst, I wrote all the lyrics and put the themes any whatnot together, and then we get together to record. This time Mick came over from the US to Birmingham in England where I live, and we recorded the vocals in a small industrial unit in an area surrounded by factories and warehouses. It would have been nice to go and record the vocals at Mick’s place in California, of course! But this suited us just as much. But then we went into limbo, because the lockdown came just after we’d completed it and handed everything over to the label. We didn’t know when the album would come out – or even if it would. That was a deeply unsure time for virtually everyone in the world, including our record label and us ourselves. But eventually things turned around, and here we are. Perhaps later than expected, but powering through.
– What does the title of your new album wants to pass to the listener? As a band you are quite sensitive to social issues and everyday events, what situations inspired you this time lyrically?
Dave Hunt: The word endarkenment is intended to try to capture something about the way the world seems to have gone in the past few years. It has seemed to me that there’s been a rejection or a turning away from what are sometimes called enlightenment values – so things like objective truth, rationalism, proof, evidence, science, experts and so on. Much of the time nowadays public discourse is marked by emotion, and facts are just irritating and largely irrelevant annoyances. People don’t seem to discuss rational beliefs, but rather they express their emotions. Most obviously in my own life, that was one of the hallmarks of Brexit. It didn’t matter what information each side could present in the Brexit debate, because a deficit of information wasn’t what was driving the arguments. But that’s just one local example of something that’s much more widespread – look at the US, look at Brazil, look at the rise of populism across various European countries, and so on. I’m sure that this must ring a bell in Greece, too, especially with the turbulent recent history there. Then there are other aspects of endarkenment, such as the fact that it generally seems that we’re entering a darker phase of global history – there’s a raging cold war once again, the climate is approaching a level where it’ll be fucked beyond repair, and so on and so on. The world feels a darker and more unstable place than it did just a few years ago.
– Although “Endarkenment” remains an extreme metal album, I have the impression that it could be described as the most “accessible” for a listener who has never heard you, compared to the rest of your discography. Do you agree with this opinion?
Dave Hunt: Possibly. I don’t know whether I’d use the word accessible, because that always also carries connotations of being commercial or watered down, and I don’t think that’s true of Endarkenment. But to us it does seem particularly direct. You feel like you’re getting right into it immediately. Naturally, as with our other albums, I think you’ll still find plenty of new little touches as you listen to it over time. But there’s a distinctive clarity about it. So yeah, for a listener who has never heard us, it might be a good place to start. And when you’ve been doing this sort of thing for a long time, and in fact possibly even more so if you’ve been writing about it for a long time, I think there’s a tendency to be somewhat jaded and forget that anything you do could be – and for more often that you realise, it is – the first thing you’ve done that many listeners ever hear. And I think it’s great that even if you’ve done, or written about, numerous albums before, it’s great if that first experience for the new listener can be exciting and fresh and capture their imagination. Hopefully Endarkenment can do that. It sounds that way to me, at least.
– 2020 has been described by many as a completely crazy year with situations going on globally. Could “Endarkenment” be the ideal soundtrack of 2020 and why?
Dave Hunt: Haha, well it wouldn’t be surprising for me to say something like that, but actually that’s something I’ve seen other people saying too. So perhaps we do have a genuine claim to the ‘soundtrack of 2020’ description. I think that partly it has to do with that clarity and immediacy in the music and the sound we were just talking about. And also it’s because the themes relate to a feeling I think a lot of people have, but haven’t been able to quite put their finger on or describe. More than once I’ve found myself talking to people who have no connection with the music, trying to describe how they feel things have changed recently, and they’ve described the same kind of thing that the word endarkenment captures. And that’s particularly cool, because as I said earlier, we wrote the album before the pandemic kicked in. So it could easily have happened that the album kind of felt like it was from and about a world that had suddenly disappeared and become irrelevant. That can happen whenever there’s a huge change in culture or world events. But in our case, the pandemic seems to have hooked into all of the same concerns we were dealing with and trying to articulate. So in a weird way it’s made prophets out of us, haha! There’s a way in which the progress of the 2020 shitshow has made Endarkenment seem all the more relevant as time has gone by. So yeah, soundtrack for 2020? I’ll take that.
– Can you tell us some things about the new album’s extreme cover? What is the symbolism behind it?
Dave Hunt: Well, it’s a striking image, isn’t it? Haha! Obviously we realise how stark and blunt it is, and we realise it’s kind of extreme to the point of possibly eliciting a laugh, or disgust, or both. And that is part of the point of a good album cover – it should grab your attention. But it’s also artistically perfectly serious at the same time. It’s a depiction of the human condition of the 21st century citizen. We citizens, we people, are increasingly treated as, and feel as if we were livestock or commodities. Our existence is increasingly Orwellian. And the closest livestock animal to humans, anatomically and probably in terms of intelligence, is pigs. Pigs are a powerful metaphor for people in society. Especially when you have the kind of pessimistic, misanthropic view that permeates Anaal Nathrakh. And like pigs, it’s not as if we help ourselves much by trying to rise to our potential – we writhe around in muck and shit, seeming to care most of the time about nothing other than what we can eat or fuck. And that is reflected in how we are encouraged by society to see the world – so much is either sex, or is somehow a reflection of frustrated sexual urges on a psychological level. Our music is so often banal stuff almost entirely about sex, sung by basically strippers or boy toy fantasy figures. Our news media, when it’s not actively about sex and celebrity, is so often filled with and intended only to foster more frothy outrage, which I doubt it would take Dr. Freud too long to explain was basically just sex gone wrong, and so on. So that’s the idea of the cocks for eyes that the pig on the cover has. A dead, dumb, humiliated animal which can only see through a prism of degraded or sublimated and frustrated sex, and which seems to want only to roll around in its own shit. Also known as: human. Life and experience can be richer than that, of course, you can’t capture all of my life or yours in those terms. But I think there’s something recognisable and resonant in that idea, and thus in the cover image.
– Anaal Nathrakh is a unique band with its own personal sound. After all these years, do you think you and Mick Kenney have explored all the musical paths you had as your vision when you started?
Dave Hunt: Haha, yes, because we hardly had any vision when we started! We wanted to do something that was harsh and heavy and evil sounding, that was exciting to us, and that we weren’t hearing from other bands at the time. We did that with our first demo, so that was a pretty short journey, haha! We had no plan, no particular ambitions, no milestones for judging whether we had achieved anything. Well, we’d have loved to get a CD that we could see in a shop, and play some shows in some cool places. But that was it. The only thing we really cared about was doing something that we thought was brilliant, and that we found satisfying to do. And really that’s exactly what we still do – the way we do things has developed, and grown massively, obviously. But that’s just a change in how we do things. What we do, from our point of view, has barely altered at all in the whole time Anaal Nathrakh has existed. It’s just grown with us and our abilities into something far beyond what we might have thought possible when we started out.
– It’s been 19 years since you released “The Codex Necro” album! Which do you remember as the best moments in your career so far?
Dave Hunt: Has it? I’m never sure which year stuff came out. I know that we first recorded in early 1999 but then it all gets a bit blurry! There are so many things we’ve done that a question like that is impossible to answer, really, there’s just too much. I remember signing our first contract while we were out drinking. Receiving a phone call from John Peel’s producer saying he wanted us to do a session for his. Recording at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios. Our first ever show being sold out, at a venue I’d always wanted to play, with half of Napalm Death on stage with us and people like Gene Hoglan and Jeff Walker there. Our first international show at the Inferno festival with a massive mosh pit that we’d been told would never happen. Playing in Athens and being able to take a photograph of the place where the thing I was writing my masters dissertation about had actually happened. Finding ourselves in all manner of places we’d never have been to otherwise – Australia, Japan, that amazing first show in Moscow. Standing on the shoreline of the Pacific when I was over there to record and saying to Mick ‘what the fuck are we doing here?’. Seeing that one of our tracks had passed three million plays on Spotify. Just a couple of weeks ago seeing Endarkenment in the actual official album charts. Receiving messages from people in parts of the world where I’m pretty sure it’s actually illegal to listen to music like ours, or from people saying they’re not sure they’d have made it if it weren’t for our music, or meeting people who’d flown or driven for hours to see us play. The utter, paralysing hilarity of my fight with a folding bed in a hotel room with Mick and our agent one time. There’s just so much, and I’m sure a lot of it wouldn’t even make sense to other people – you had to be there for the folding bed thing, for example, haha!
– There has always been that element of nihilism with Anaal Nathrakh’s music. Do you feel you are getting angrier every day with the world?
Dave Hunt: Yeah, there’s a weird link between nihilism and rage. On one level you’d think they would be very separate ideas – if nothing matters, why would you be angry about it? But most serious attempts to think about or cope with nihilism seem to have strong emotional drives attached to them, whether that’s the rage which is obvious in the political nihilists, or the fear and almost awe with which nihilism is often regarded by non-nihilists in philosophy. And in our case, yes, the rage is intimately linked with the nihilism. I think it’s born out of a sense that things could have been different – the world we live in has much that gives rise to nihilistic feelings, but it’s the fact that the world could be better somehow that makes one angry about the way the world is. I certainly feel angrier nowadays even than I did when I was younger – and I was a particularly angry young man. Though I think now I feel perhaps less nihilistic and more pessimistic. I’ve learned to cope with nihilism by seeing it almost as a gift – it means that there is no significance in anything beyond the significance you perceive, but that means that the significance with which you imbue things is the ultimate form of significance. So in a strange way, by taking away meaning in life, nihilism gives you all the meaning in the world. That’s a terrifying thing to come to terms with for many people on a philosophical level. But I’ve made peace with it to some extent now. The problem now is more to do with pessimism and boiling rage, rather than nihilism and boiling rage!
– What are the plans for the future of Anaal Nathrakh?
Dave Hunt: Well now in late 2020 that’s a really good question, isn’t it? It’s virtually impossible to even think about the kinds of things we’d expected to be doing right now. If you release an album, you expect to do other things around that, especially playing live. And in our case, Endarkenment seems to be doing particularly well, at least in some parts of the world, and that would usually open up even more doors and even more exciting possibilities. But as things stand, live music is out the window. Some bands have been announcing shows, but personally I think that’s a bit childish – I don’t blame people for feeling frustrated and wanting to fast forward to the time when shows can happen again. But today, we’re not there yet – we don’t know if shows will even be possible in 2021. And until we know that for certain, I don’t feel comfortable setting plans in motion that could easily result in cancellation again, fans losing out, people losing money and so on. All that said, though, we would love to be able to do some of the stuff we ‘should’ be doing now, and hopefully things will begin to change for the better before too long.
– Thank you very much for the interview and we hope to see you live again in Greece, after all this madness stops! The final words are yours…
Dave Hunt: Thank you too. We’d love to play in Greece again, so I really hope we can too!
Interview: Nikos Manousis
Cover Artwork: Michalis Dimitropoulos
Design & Editing: Alexandros Soultatos
Date: October 9th, 2020
External Link: ANAAL NATHRAKH – Facebook Page
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