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Nachtmystuim - Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1 Award winner

Nachtmystium
Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1
by Chris Hawkins at 31 December 2018, 1:05 PM

In keeping with the theme of albums that perpetually parted the Red Sea for Black Metal started with last week’s coverage of the reissue/remaster of MAYHEM’s seminal “Grand Declaration of War,” this week’s attention is now focused solely on NACHTMYSTIUM.  Along with their EP of new material titled “Resilient,” I’m inviting the reader to join me in revisiting an album that engulfed the fences put up separating Black Metal from its Metal brethren in pyromantic-satisfying flames, “Assassins:  Black Meddle Pt.1”.  This reissue was born from the celebration of its tenth anniversary and is undoubtedly just as relevant now.  It would be ridiculous to stir things up again recounting the controversy that ensued with Blake Judd following his meteoric rise to elite status as the internet will certainly list all of that in its entirety, but as an aside, I think a Netflix bio covering his story would be exceedingly more entertaining than the rehashed story of MOTLEY CRÜE that everyone already knows anyway.  Just saying.

Assassins…” certainly qualifies as a game changer.  As alluded to in the previous paragraph, ten years ago, Black Metal was indeed much more segregated from the other sections of Extreme Metal.  There are myriad reasons for this from the superficial such as the media hype of bands’ extracurricular criminal activities to the inherent nature of Black Metal as a means of spiritual communion with darkness and power.  Black Metal, however, is a justifiable genre as it embodies the true spirit of Rock ‘N Roll:  rebellion.  Taking its cue from Lucifer himself, the genre as a whole is a giant middle finger to the establishment.  To the tech-savvy shred heads and Prog fiends, Black Metal has always been the little brother they locked in the basement and fed through the door so as not to embarrass them in front of their friends.  There is a spirit of Punk Rock, though, in Black Metal, a do-it-yourself your-way ethos that caters to atmosphere over technical ability.  Psychologically, it makes sense that one who is exiled would build up walls to keep the medium pure and devoid of unsavory interests.  Add to this the stigma of being a non-Scandinavian band, and it is clear to see what NACHTMYSTIUM had stacked against them; however, as will be outlined, they prevailed.

One of These Nights,” a less-than-two-minute song, kicks off the record.  It sets the tone for that which is to follow with a monstrous riff a la “Children of the Grave” accented by dissonant chords thrown in to blacken the song.  Just as it gets going, the vocals come in with “One of these nights I’m going to fucking die”.  Immediately, Judd conducts an invocation for self-destruction, the real thing.  “Assassins” kicks off just after and centers the focus on a more traditional Black Metal sound with a tremolo-picked riff and some heavy blasting.  Soon, though, the chorus hits, an actual chorus that one could sing along with.  In less than three minutes, the album has already expanded one’s understanding.  As the song plods along, it is sonically satisfying to hear a full, well-rounded bass tone, tastefully-played with some choice fills, a Geezer Butler type of style for this new iteration of Black Metal.  As tempos shift from almost Doom gradually to full-force Black metal, the same riff is performed causing the ringing chords to resonate and chime throughout the mind.  It won’t be the last time the album suspends the listener in haunting hypnosis.

After a trippy lengthy ending of effects-driven guitar, the third song, “Ghosts of Grace,” launches with a solid backbeat while the guitar plays an infectious hook.  At this point, it would be most appropriate to turn our attention to the instrumentation going on.  As already established, the bass is solid though tweaked with some fuzz on this track.  The drums are everything one would expect from Tony Laureno, the Merlin of percussion who established his dominance in previous bands such as ANGEL CORPSE and NILE.  Guitar-wise, there are a few different things occurring.  First, Judd has a swirling, chiming-type effect employed for the catchy hook.  On the rhythm guitars, though, is a massive guitar sound, one that has eclipsed the former boundaries of Black Metal.  While not apocryphal, the tone is like an expansion or update to the medium.  It’s like the difference between a cheap solid-state amp and a tube amp.  The guitar tone is simply alive, three dimensional in tone.  The song absolutely slams as it progresses, highlighted by the occasional use of analog-based psychedelic effects.  Throughout the album actually, there is ample use of keyboard and synth effects along with guitar-based ones giving a psychedelic and trippy feel to the music.  It comes across as an album that is ultimately fueled by hatred, darkness, escapism, hypnotherapy, and self-medication.

The psychedelia continues on in track six, “Code Negative”.  Thus far, this just may be the most compelling selection.  There is a heavy fog of experimentation that permeates the atmosphere.  At one point, it felt like listening to the blackened spiritual successor to THE DOORS.  The turn-around at the 3:46 mark, though, takes the proceedings to another dimension as it sets up a bluesy guitar solo in the classic spirit of “Comfortably Numb”.  The perfect ending is achieved as the track fades away with a voice repeating “no cure for this illness”.  Experimentation escalates with the three-song ending to the album titled “Seasick”.  On the second part, “Seasick (Part 2 – Oceanborne),” the gates are thrown wide open as the band launches into a free-form jazz feel with solos traded off between sax and guitar.  Now all preconceptions have been dissolved as NACHTMYSTIUM blazed their own trail of creativity and ultimate sublimity.

One has to catch their breath after finishing a session of listening to this record.  It is nothing less than a classic, an album that commands one’s attention as it transports the listener to other worlds and states of consciousness.  While in the waking dream, this thrall of NACHTMYSTIUM, lucidity is achieved by grasping the melodies, rhythms, and themes pervading as it rolls along.  There are few bands that transcend classification and NACHTMYSTIUM dwells among those elite ranks.  Rooted in Black Metal, fans of the genre will be able to comprehend the band’s direction while those that lay outside the purview of Black Metal will perhaps come to appreciate it via this band.  NACHTMYSTIUM, thus, could be a gateway drug employing enough elements to garner those who are not in the know so to speak.  On the other hand, the band’s music could be looked at as something harder sure to please aficionados.  For that crowd, the next prescription should be the band’s follow-up, “Addicts:  Black Meddle Pt. II”.  This is therefore a permanent go-to album for me, an escape from the harshness of reality.  Try it.

Songwriting:  9
Originality:  9
Memorability:  10
Production:  9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. One of These Nights
2. Assassins
3. Ghosts of Grace
4. Away from the Light
5. Your True Enemy
6. Code Negative
7. Omnivore
8. Seasick (Part 1 – Drowned at Dusk)
9. Seasick (Part 2 – Oceanborne)
10. Seasick (Part 3 – Silent Sunrise)
Lineup:
Blake Judd- Guitars, Lead Vocals
Jeff Wilson – Rhythm
Zion Meagher - Bass
Tony Laureno– Drums
Record Label: Prophecy Productions
     


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Edited 24 May 2019
 

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