Blake Judd has had a rough last couple years, missing two of Nachtmystium's biggest breaks as a result of a strange coincidence and outright misinformation. First, getting thrown off of the first annual Scion Fest for supposedly being a National Socialist band (they are not). The second occurred shortly thereafter losing out on a spot in direct support of The Haunted throughout North America when Judd snapped his leg. Somehow these upsets have fueled him to write a record that transcends their black metal roots.
Many band talk of transcending their upbringing. Whether it's the metal band adding poorly thought out melodic singing (the aforementioned Haunted), adding unnecessary electronics, or just trying desperately to regain their past glories (hello, Metallica). Most of these incidences fail beyond words due to trying too hard. Nachtmystium has transcended and become another beast altogether by not caring at all. In the last decade we've noticed the beginning apprehensive movements towards this. Instinct: Decay started moving away from traditional black metal recording techniques and adding in gentle psych touches. That must have made them pretty comfortable since their next album not only cribbed part of it's title from Pink Floyd but also made these psych touches much louder and open.
With this album Judd and company become Killing Joke in black metal form. Many of the traditional touches of black metal (poor recording, unnecessarily angry rhetoric, blast beats,etc.) have been washed away. Instead we have a smartly played and recorded album. The pain is personal as each song details addiction, pain and outright anger. The two most noticeable touches are the heavy use of synth and the informative intelligent playing of the drums. Wrest best known for being the black metal beast Leviathan plays drums on this. The best thing I can say is instead of most black metal where the drums inform the playing of the rest of the band Wrest makes it go the other way. The drums breathe slam and destroy all when it is necessary. No single cymbal hit feels even slightly out of place. The synthesizers are used tastefully making an emotional appearance time and again. This album sounds eerily like Killing Joke's 2003 self-titled album. That is to say it is played with class and stellar instrumentation as though each piece was studied for maximum resonance.
In a way this is the best non-metal metal album I've heard in a long time. I saw that because even though there are still touches and moments of their past brutality. The blast beats remain, when needed, also the guitars solo when called for. The solos are more than tasteful, they are downright classy at times. They flow neatly into the songs rather than appearing as an afterthought.
This band has become something beyond mere genre points. They are sounding strengthened by their personal shortcomings and have moved well beyond them. Who knows where they will go from this point on. On the positive side this album is broad and strong enough to keep you busy for the next couple years while we wait to find out where they go next.
9.6 / 10
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