For one whose work involves composing and performing music, there are many firsts. Your first song. Your first release. Your first gig. Your first record deal. Your first tour. Your first hit. So on, so on. Last night, Birmingham-based act Anaal Nathrakh celebrated a long-awaited first: the band’s first visit to Russia. The five-piece, whose music can best be described as a soundtrack to the apocalypse, played to a crowd of about six-hundred eager Russian fans at Moscow’s Moscow Hall on Saturday night; as vocalist Dave Hunt informed me while taking a breath of fresh air outside the club (respite from being hounded by fans begging for autographs and photos), the band first received an offer to perform in Russia’s capital ten years ago. “We’ve been getting one every two years since”, he continues. After a decade of waiting, the band finally made its way to the motherland with the help of Delta Mekong Concerts, a local booking agency with a long history of bringing quality metal bands to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. “It’s hard to believe we’re actually here,” Hunt exclaims several times during the show. He and the other members of Anaal Nathrakh are not the only ones who are in disbelief: after the gig, V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (Hunt’s on-stage alter ego), guitarists Irrumator (real name Mick Kenney) and Ventnor, drummer St. Evil, and bassist Drunk are swarmed by audience members, who praise their work and thank them for making it all the way to Russia. While some merely ask for an autograph, others pour their hearts out in passionate speeches: “I thought he was about to start crying”, Kenney remarks after one lively fan departs. Although Hunt is under the effects of a mild cold (“How’s your throat?” “Shit”, he says), the group is at top form both onstage and off it.
After a short set by local death metal band Graceful Degradation and a quick intermission, Anaal Nathrakh take the stage. Beginning their 13-song set with the booming second track off of their 2011 album Passion, “Drug-Fucking Abomination”, the band is incredibly tight in its musicianship, never missing a note. Even Hunt (who, as mentioned, is suffering a classic Moscow cold) manages to belch out his demonic screams, with the audience pitching in. Moving away from the 10-song setlist planned for each date of the tour, the band throws in a few left-fielders: “When the Lion Devours Both Dragon and Child” from Eschaton, which ends the main set, and “The Lucifer Effect”, each evoking a strong reaction from the crowd. Early on in the set, the band play “Todos Somos Humanos”, a track from their new album, Vanitas; ignoring the venue’s stance on people getting on stage, Hunt and Kenney motion for members of the audience to climb up. I’m the first of many to join the five on the stage of Moscow Hall, which quickly fills up. Despite a warning from the staff, the band repeats the move once more later on during the evening, with a smaller turnout. The cold takes its toll on Hunt’s voice during an encore consisting of “More of Fire Than Blood” and “Do Not Speak”; his screams fading into the layers of guitars and machine gun-speed drumming, the audience lends a hand, screaming out the chorus of “Do Not Speak”.
With an early end to the show at 9:45, I spend the next two hours with Mick and Dave, respectively. While Dave hides out backstage, reluctant to face the swarm of rabid fans, Mick embraces the attention (or bites the bullet, depending on your perspective), taking the time to sign every ticket and CD and pose for each photo. I end up holding his can of piss-poor Russian beer for him on several occasions, with him relieved to find out it’s not empty every time he comes back for it. During a conversation with one fan, Kenney remarks that the shirt he’s wearing is a bootleg; none of the money he paid for it went to anyone in Anaal Nathrakh. Seconds later, the shirt’s been ripped apart and hangs off the man’s shoulders; “a true fan”, Mick chuckles. A dozen ginger jokes later, Dave stumbles out from backstage and is promptly greeted by a crowd of 30 or so; his facial expression upon seeing his welcoming party is one of timid resignation. However, the mob soon parts, and whoever is left hanging around is chased away by the club’s security. I leave the venue and am soon joined by Dave, looking for a break from the stuffiness of Moscow Hall. In the ensuing conversation, we cover a handful of topics including Dave’s expectations of the audience, his role as the well-read lyricist of Anaal Nathrakh (brownie points to whoever can recognize each literary reference in the band’s song titles), and the turnout, which he finds satisfactory. In regards to his expectations: “I was expecting a right-wing contingency”, he tells me. “Really?” “Yeah. Like the kind we had in Poland. Had about two-thirds of the audience wearing shirts with swastikas.” “Shit.” “Yeah. We’re not okay with that. Can’t beat the shit out of them, though, can we?” I bring up a viral video in which the bassist of pseudo-Irish punk band Dropkick Murphys fights an audience member sporting a Nazi salute; Dave laughs and says he’s seen it. Throughout the evening, him and Kenney repeatedly ask myself and others present where one goes to ‘party’ after a gig; with no location coming to mind, I let Dave know there’s a retro 50’s-esque American diner across the street from the venue. Dave laughs, remarking that “just because it’s open, doesn’t mean it’s worth going to.” Now backstage and mingling with organizers and press, Dave signs a few more records and poses for a few more photos. “Have you ever tried opera?” someone asks. “Tried”, Dave replies. “Faust?” “God, no. You need to be able to sing for that. I don’t know how to sing.”
Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes
In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas
Submission is for the Weak
The Final Absolution
Todos Somos Humanos
The Blood-Dimmed Tide
The Lucifer Effect
Forging Towards the Sunset
In the Constellation of the Black Widow
When the Lion Devours Both Dragon and Child
More of Fire Than Blood
Do Not Speak
A written interview with Mick and Dave will come soon.
I'm in the front row in the Ulver shirt.