"In the end though, nepotism will always be the most effective tool. So be good friends with someone influential, butter up or pay the appropriate people to get into the frame for the big tours"
Arguably you can place Anaal Nathrakh in the same bracket as Australia's The Berzerker and Canada's sorely-missed Strapping Young Lad, for being pure fucking extreme metal. For a duo who have been serving up nihilistic and downright filthy albums since 1999, Anaal Nathrakh have shown no signs of slowing down and with the forged relationship between V.I.T.R.I.O.L.: and Irrumator, they are unbreakable; no matter how many pieces of equipment they go through by harnessing their beautifully dark minds in synchronicity.
Album no.11 will see daylight sometime this year but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is no clear cut release date, but what is clear cut is that it's destined to leave you needing fresh underwear. It was then only fair for GMA to interrogate V.I.T.R.I.O.L. about the unmovable partnership the band has, what he has been doing since the UK went into lockdown and how music distribution has changed in context with what challenges the band faced years ago to what newer bands could face these days... oh and having a question about the new wave of British Extreme Metal being answered in a unique way; the interviewee asking the interview; much love Dave :).
Album #11 is coming out this year, is there a definitive title yet or are some ideas being bounced around; what stage is the album at?
"Hello. Yes, everything is completely finished, we handed the whole album over to Metal Blade Records a while back. But then immediately after we’d done so, the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off. So we’re in limbo to some extent now, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Presumably MB want to continue to release music, because people out there in the world in lockdown can still seek out and listen to new music – in fact music might be a particularly important thing for many people at the moment. I’ve been listening more myself, certainly. But at the same time, presumably the people at the label, the pressing plants, the distributors and so on are mostly working from home or furloughed. So yeah, the album is complete, but we’ve no idea what will happen with it next."
What can you tell us about the new album that has no relation to the previous album? e.g. themes, differences between this and "A New Kind of Horror"?
"Well the last album had a lot to do with the First World War because of the time we were writing it, which obviously isn’t the case with this one. So in terms of subject matter it’s very different in many respects. There’s a lot in it, but I suppose you could say that a lot of it focuses on the position of the person or individual – basically, you or I, or a person we could very easily have been – in the world. That’s especially the case with the cover art, too, which is particularly striking this time. I’ve been thinking a lot more about art over the last year or so, and in working with Mick [Kenney] on the artwork for this album, we’ve really outdone ourselves.
But art aside, in general, I think we humans are increasingly subject to manipulation, for example even to the extent that the Government’s responses to the coronavirus crisis here in the UK were initially dictated not by experts on viruses, but by behavioural scientists. And it’s turned out that in many respects, even though the album was written before the virus came along, it’s just as applicable in the new updated global context. Musically it’s more direct, I think. For the kind of music it is, I think it’s probably more accessible – obviously I don’t mean it’s pop music, and something filled with blast beats and screaming can only be accessible in a relative sense. But even by our standards as a band you can latch on to despite the viciousness of the music, I think it’s even more immediate than before. But we won’t know whether that’s borne out in other people’s experiences until the things is finally fucking released!"
As a band you've been going 21 years now, (how time flies) would you agree the British Extreme Metal is experiencing a new wave of bands?
"Haha, I’m not sure how the two halves of that question go together! When you’ve been doing something for ages, it usually means you have less of an idea what’s going on with people who have just started doing it, not more! I think perhaps your question would be better answered by a journalist like you rather than by me." [Rhys: Touche Dave, got me there; the UK Extreme Metal scene is amidst a new wave for sure]
As the UK is in lock down, what have you been doing at home both musically and in other hobbies?
"It’s a weird mixture of intentions and inertia. I think a lot of people have found themselves expecting and fully intending to get on with all the little projects they’d not got around to, but then in reality sitting in their pants eating shit in front of the TV. My mental escape has always been games, so I’ve been playing quite a lot. I’ve also been thinking about some philosophical stuff – I recently finished a really big piece of work, and it’s possible that I could polish some parts of it and seek to publish them, so I’ve been thinking about some problems that I’d have to solve to get them to publishable quality.
It won’t make sense to many people, but if you’re into that sort of thing, basically it’s about the roles of cognitive vs. conative elements of a hybrid metaethical position. But mostly I’ve been sitting on my arse and festering into an ever greater loathing of my fellow humans and the twats on the telly and the radio who act like they know what they’re doing, but who are actually incompetent, self-serving, arse-covering fuckwits. Just like everyone else."
Birmingham skyline, England / Source: MeetBirmingham
Arguably you're one of the strongest metal duo's to be still active and so what is it that makes you both tick along nicely?
"Tick along nicely? This is Anaal Nathrakh, not a long-running car boot sale or someone’s happily married grandparents. We do what we do together because when we get together and work on this stuff, the results excite us. We specifically don’t have a trick or formula that makes things smooth and easy. That would be boring, and alienate us from any creative satisfaction. There’s never any thought of ‘ok, back to the old job, and this time around…’, because every new thing we do is ad hoc and vital and expressive, not mechanistic. We have a significantly optimised approach to recording, for example, because we know what we’re doing, but despite that we haven’t recorded in the same place twice in a row in nearly a decade, we usually use different equipment, and the cares and concerns we have at any given time are fresh and immediate.
A band like Bolt Thrower could perhaps approach an album and say to themselves ‘OK, how do we talk in a slightly different way about war this time?’. And it worked brilliantly for them. But that’s just not how our minds work. Yes, when we work together on Anaal Nathrakh there’s a similarity or continuity with our previous stuff, because it’s us and it’s Anaal Nathrakh. But beyond that there’s no trick or method – we do what we do because we know who we are, we know we get on well, and we know if we focus and work as hard as we possibly can, we will think the results are fucking brilliant. Even if nobody else did, haha!"
What (in your opinion) are the biggest challenges facing the new crop of metal bands coming up the ranks in the UK?
"I have little idea, to be honest – you’d have to ask someone who’s in that position. If anything I’m sick of the solipsism that makes people feel entitled to comment on the predicaments of others without actually understanding the peculiar difficulties of others’ situations. It’s like an MP saying they could live on universal credit when they haven’t got a fucking clue about life outside their privilege. Having said that, one of the big things must be how to adapt to the fact that the world has moved on in terms of distribution and performance channels. Nowadays a lot of music culture revolves around Instagram and so on in a way I find distasteful, but which is simply the norm to most people. That’s an issue for all bands, but it must be especially acute for those trying to build some initial recognition and rise among the plethora of others on Bandcamp or wherever.
It still applies if you have significant recognition among potential fans, of course, but if hardly anyone has ever heard your band name yet, it’s got to be harder. We had early success on mp3.com back in the day – it was more like an early YouTube kind of thing back then, not the corporate pop shit thing is it now – but nowadays you have to navigate a much more complex network of genre tagging, big-data-style keyword heuristics, game search results, all that kind of shit. In the end though, nepotism will always be the most effective tool. So be good friends with someone influential, butter up or pay the appropriate people to get into the frame for the big tours, and in the UK, be from London. Then you’ll soon be doing better than us and be more able to answer that question than we are."
What plans for the year ahead do you have (COVID-19 depending); did you have before this pandemic?
"Well, it’s basically impossible to answer that question. As it happens, we were planning on keeping a somewhat lower profile in terms of shows, just playing key events. But now we don’t even know when the album is likely to come out, everything’s cancelled, and no one can book shows and tours at all. For example, just as the virus blew up in the West, we were in talks about a really big festival show in South America, possibly along with some tour dates on that side of the world. But that’s completely out the window now. Depending on how the prognosis for society develops, perhaps we’ll have to think of something innovative and unconventional to do. But for the time being, it’s a waiting game to see what will happen."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out? Any final words?