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It is said that man and chimpanzee shares 96% of its DNA, incredible similarity in genome yet tremendous difference not only in appearance but also in behaviour. Man, advanced, angry and keen on destroying everything in his surroundings. Chimp, slightly less advanced, loveable and keen on dressing up in a tux to amuse even less advanced species on social media. On masterpieces such as 'Eschaton', 'Hell is Empty...' and 'In the Constellation...' Anaal Nathrakh skilfully painted the picture of the inevitable consequences of mankind's madness, an industrial nightmare in a barren post-apocalyptic world. A world light-years away from that of the friendly chimpanzee. Admittedly, the facade started to crack somewhat on the Brummies' 2012 output 'Vanitas', a cause for concern surely, but not alarming at the time.
A superficial genome sequencing of 'Desideratum' will show the familiar features that turned Anaal Nathrakh into a beast fusing insane aggression and brilliant clean sung melodies, a duality conjuring images of destruction, hopelessness and insanity. The tremolo-riffage and catchy haunting melodies are performed in the usual up-tempo style with the occasional slower passages. The grinding drums could as well have been taken from 'Eschaton' and V.I.T.R.I.O.L.'s clean singing is better than ever. In theory everything is set for another assault of hyper aggressive grind-influenced black metal.
But all is not well, things have changed. Despite playing familiar riffs the guitar sound on 'Desideratum' is outright poor. Anaal Nathrakh were never overtly distorted and never used extreme lo-fi productions, but this time a slight loss in distortion and a slightly too clean guitar sound results in a loss of almost all the aggression that turned the band into extreme metal pioneers in the early 2000's. The duality is basically gone. Not only due to the poor guitar sound, but to some extent also to the sparse use of the characteristic insanely reverbed black metal screams and the focus on melodies rather than brutality in the riff work. To be fair, neither of these changes are completely new to the band. The trend started already on the emotional 'Passion' and the melody-driven 'Vanitas', but where these albums still rested solidly on the foundations set on previous albums, on 'Desideratum' the foundation has cracked and withered.
To add further fuel to the fire the band has put more focus on two aspects, breakdowns and electronic passages, the latter courtesy of a collaboration with electronic sound design project GORE TECH. Neither are new to the sound of the band, but were on previous efforts subordinate to the aggressive riff works. On 'Desideratum', much due to the weak guitars, these aspects take the upper hand in the mix and become bearable at best, up-right annoying at most. There are basically two aspects that prevent this album from becoming a total catastrophe. Foremost some of the clean sung choruses, which to be honest are among the strongest the band has ever presented. The tunes lacking said melodies, however, only make me fight the urge to switch to any of the bands other outputs.
The second aspect saving 'Desideratum' some dignity is 'Idol', by far the best song on the album and would have served well as a bonus track on any of the bands mid-2000's albums. Apart from this, 'Desideratum' is hampered by the lack of aggression and hence the loss of the duality that made Anaal Nathrakh cause a stir in the underground. 'Vanitas' showed the vulnerability of the band's sound and balanced on the edge, 'Desideratum' is falling helplessly. Without the masterful duality, this becomes boring and uninspiring.
The conclusion is simple. 'Desideratum' shares the bulk of its DNA with its predecessors, but instead of a raging lunatic of a man we get a peaceful lovely chimp, not even remotely close to a furious Planet of the Apes-primate. Even when the chimp throws the occasional slab of faeces it is still light years away from the destructive insanity that was once Anaal Nathrakh.