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Anaal Nathrakh – ‘Hell is Empty and All the Devils are Here’ (Reissue)

Metal Blade Records
Cattle Decapitation, Napalm Death, Full of Hell
Release Date
August 13, 2021
Metal Blade Records
Black Metal/Grindcore/Industrial

Anaal Nathrakh is a band that is widely known in the Extreme Metal community, but in my personal opinion, it is also a band whose potential and virtuosity often gets overlooked in favor of what is birthed upon the surface, which is a maelstrom of dissonance so livid which feels as though it can take shape. Yes, the noise conceived that reverberates through every album is creatively concocted, just like words that are penned upon paper, mindlessly written, that’s all it ceases to be, just random sentences with little meaning, however, arrange the words fused with emotions, poetry would will itself from the mind to paper…this is how I would describe the essence that is Anaal Nathrakh, does the description sound a tad bit pretentious? Maybe, but that being said, the innovative side of this band to mold chaos into sound is a factor that lingers in every release, forever changing yet always being consistent. So which release are we looking at today? Well it’s more of a re-issue of their fourth album, ‘Hell is Empty and All the Devils are here’ (originally released on October 29th, 2007), for the purists at heart who maybe already acquainted with this gem, may this review bring some semblance of joy and nostalgia, to you whom this band may be unknown to you, I sincerely hope these words be the guide to this band’s discography.

If you’re not familiar with Anaal Nathrakh their roots are embedded within the earth that is Black Metal however, the waters that soak the soil are polluted with that of Industrial and Grindcore elements…the result? A tree that is contorted and bears the scent of cyanide as its mere essence reeks of blight. You may be wondering, ‘But that sounds like negativity being brewed?’ How right you are, the music at its core is negative, repulsive and at times feels like a malignant thought that boils and festers within the mind spreading through the flesh like a diseased infliction as nails break against skin as one tries to claw away at the sickness with intent to release it.

Now that you have a clear understanding of the spirit that inhibits the band, let’s get into this re-release, immediately you are welcomed with the sounds echoed from a ripened belly that heralds the apocalypse, these discordant notes are expulsed from one being, Mick Kenney, the first head of this beast, whose responsible for all the instrumental arrangements and programmed ambience that assaults the senses. Songs such as, ‘The Final Absolution’ and ‘Sanction Extremis’ are morsels that whets the appetite of this impending holocaust, what is meant by this analogy, is that the sounds emanated on this album can be summed up into one word, CATACLYSM, and if that word were to be anatomized for the separate sounds that intertwine to create one body, it would be a mixture of mechanical and occult like sounds that flows through the veins of this album, where at times it evokes a vibe of a blending of sorcery and machinery to usher a new era of pandemonium. Upon foreign ears, it may all sound tumultuous and raging where all aspects are mixed into a vortex, but if you take a step away, a bird’s eye view if you may, and focus on the larger picture, you will realize the method to the chaos that is ensued on this release, ‘Shatter the Empyrean’ is an example which takes simplistic Black n Roll notes, yet subjects it to a barrage of pervasive noise resulting in a macabre experience.

If the musical arrangements conducted the symphony of war, the vocals would be the flames and acrid fumes that scorches and impregnates an innocent sky. The heavy artillery of vocals are supplied by none other than the legendary, Dave Hunt (aka V.I.T.R.I.O.L.), the second head of this beast… bias alert, this is one of my all-time favorite vocalist, and on this album, the opinion shows why, as at times it feels as though the ten (10) plagues cam come forth just by the verses that are spewed from a tongue heavy with hate and disgust, but with a schizophrenic twist, that same well which waters can poison also springs forth a choir of melodies, this is showcased in songs such as ‘The Final Absolution’ ( one trait that also appears in other albums).’Virus Bomb’ is another example which shows the unification of all the negative elements combined into one package, especially with the duality of the vocals, which are seamlessly integrated into the cacophonous mix… for the newcomers, give this one a listen if you want to experience the lifeblood that this band secretes, this is a succinct track that embodies the essence.

Final verdict? You may realize that one aspect in which this review was erected upon was the atmosphere of this album, and the reason for this is simply…because I believe it offers that atmospheric quality to it. As one singular entity with all the tracks stitched together it fosters an illusion where sulphur fills the nostrils as piles of bodies are herded like cattle into sheds awaiting a chemical bath and corpses with swollen stomachs clutter the fields…all this, painted with the sounds of malice. Yes, there are intricate and complex moments that unfolds during the album, ‘Genetic Noose’ demonstrates this in the riffing incorporated, but in my opinion, the technical prowess feels like the offspring of genocide, and this here is where the album excels, where the calamity feels organic.

In conclusion, yes, I would recommend this to any Metal fan who is curious in discovering a different outlet in which aggression can be born, the only ‘warning’ I would say is that to those who maybe listening for the first time, do so with the intention of giving the album your full undivided attention as its more of an experience than an album just to be dissected for musical merits.

If you enjoyed this review, I shall also be reviewing the next reissued material, the EP, ‘When Fire Rains Down from the Sky, Mankind Will Reap as It Has Sown’, so stay tuned for that!

an album to be recommended to every fan of metal.

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