Review by Sophie Maugham
It is a particularly grim Thursday night here in Brum as I sprint down the slippery canal bank towards the venue. It is pissing down. Cold is an understatement. I do spy a couple of roadies outside and can hear strains of some pretty heavy music emanating from the building in front of me. Having never been here before and hearing tales of this gaff being an indie hotspot, I am a tad dubious of what I am about to experience. Any trepidation is immediately extinguished as I step (or should that be slide) into the front door of the Flapper. I am both surprised and excited to take in the framed band photos adorning the walls, a Bram Stoker Dracula pinball machine and the copious amounts of happy looking metalheads throwing down pints. There is an initial stomach churning incident when the two dudes at the ticket desk cannot find my name on the guest list. Shit. A quick text sorts this out and within ten minutes, I am elated to be squashed up against a very tall bloke smelling faintly of wet dog. Awesome.
I had the aural pleasure of discovering Anaal Nathrakh (tonight’s main event) at Bloodstock Festival this year. Along with Benediction, they were my personal highlight of the entire four days and another shining example of the calibre of extreme metal bands hailing from the West Midlands. Their sound is an eardrum-perforating fusion of black, death, grindcore and industrial metal that will, simply put, light a bonfire of gargantuan proportion under your ass. So as 9.57 pm rolls around and the mics are briefly checked (through a variety of ahem, colourful bellows of “Deeeeeeeath!” and “Cuuuuuuunt!”) my heart begins to race just that bit more and you can almost taste the anticipation hanging in the dense air.
Anaal Nathrakh literally explode on to the stage. You can see the veins pulsating to the point of combustion on the burning red face of vocalist Dave Hunt. The sound during set opener ‘In the Constellation of the Blck Widow’ is atrocious (with the guitars most definitely on the low end) but not one person here is remotely bothered. If anything, it just seems to intensify the ferocity of the atmosphere. I am stood on the edge of the pit and no prisoners are taken. Doom claws are held aloft by all and the crowd are baying for blood during an absolutely Blistering performance of ‘Between Shit and Piss We Are Born’ from 2006’s Eschaton. Holy mother of Lucifer, it sounds huge.
There’s a heart-warming moment (well, as much as there can be at such a brutal gig) when Dave waxes poetic on the mini “tourette” the band have just embarked upon. They did not think it could get better than their London show with Code but the fact remains that “this is home and we thank you for the reception, cheers!” Bless. Mr Hunt informs us that the next song ‘Volenti Non Fit Iniuria’ is “kinda about mosh pits”. Some smart arse in the crowd is subsequently mocked for their garbled attempt at the Latin pronounciation and Dave quips on how he hopes we “pit” better. They do say that the proof is in the proverbial pudding, and you had better believe me folks when I say that the pit goes off within milliseconds.
The PA system fucks up right after ‘Volenti’ and a “poor balding lamb” of a fan is invited onstage. Truth be told, he is tall, ripped and covered in tattoos. This is the cue for the first stage diver of the evening and on the opening intro of ‘The Final Absolution’, he hurls himself upon the mercy and hands of the sweaty thrashing mob below. Things get serious when we are encouraged to locate somebody we do not like the look of and “fuck them up” whilst ‘Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes’ incites a frenzy of movement. Bodies are flying during new track ‘Forging Towards the Sunset’ (from latest album Vanitas) along with a fair amount of hair being flung and heads banged.
The guys promise they will not indulge in the clichéd encore speech and tell us how that’s it but then play one more. No siree bob. They simply state “we’ll treat you like human beings and play three more.” And what a choice of three songs they are. It could be the soundtrack to Armageddon itself with ‘Do Not Speak‘, ‘Of Fire, and Fucking Pigs’ and ‘More of Fire Than Blood’ delighting the rabid throng and cranking the volume up to an unholy level. As I am slammed into the nearby bar, I count at least fifty thousand stage divers of both the male and female persuasion. Yes. Do not think for a second that women aren’t just as moved by this band’s cataclysmically powerful sound. And as the last applause rings out and teeth / phones / souls are collected from the floor, it is safe to say that tonight’s homecoming has been nothing short of a triumph. Anaal Nathrakh – you were f*cking beautiful.