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Nachtmystium - Assassins: Black Meddle Part I

Label: Century Media
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: The Goat
Nachtmystium, a black metal band that hails from Chicago, has gone weird. I am talking full on weird that the Norwegians went back in the late Nineties (see Arcturus, Ulver, Into The Woods, etc.). The label and bio sheet claims they have gone Psychedelic, which I admit seems somewhat true. I realize though, that most metalheads are more likely to be less familiar with true Psychedelic music and will assume that Nachtmystium are going Psychedelic. “Assassins” is definitely a unique experience in musical form.
 
Which means, I think we have a really strong contender for Best Album of 2008 here. This is by far one of the most eclectic and well thought out albums I have come across in recent months (Opeth's newbie is also in this group). If “Assassins” does not bring Nachtmystium into the global metal consciousness, then by golly, I will sell MY WHOLE CD collection and buy the whole catalogue of John Tesh in exchange. Serious statement, no?

Yet, I would not describe “Assassins” as being Psychedelic for several reasons. First, while it is eclectic, it still retains a raw energy that is in nearly all Black Metal. What will lead people to think it is Psychedelic is that “Seasick (Part 2: Oceanborne)” has a jazzy sax accompaniment happening in the jam. While this may sound odd and out of place, it is so well done that it seems most natural (while I am not a hundred percent certain to this point but I suspect that Nachtmystium may be the only band in Black Metal to operationalize a sax, melodically). For the Black Metal fans reading this, don't be alarmed, Nachtmystium still are a Black metal band and shred and tear quite viciously.

Secondly, the opening instrumentalish intro, “One of these Nights” begins with a cold wind noise that delivers a menacing march that is both Sabbath and Watain. It quickly switches to a fast blastbeat and haunting echoed vocals of “Assassins.” “Assassins” is quite anthemic when the chorus kicks in (and I dare you to try not to yell along with the chorus “We Feel Nothing And Are Nothing something something Reject Weakness!” Aaargh!). The middle of the song is an incredible slowed but midpaced jam that builds its menace - I picture a sweeping horde of black leather clad bikers in Post-Apocalyptic Mad max gear swarming into a Norman Rockwellish town to pillage. Once this song is completed, you quickly realize that you are not in (Black Metal) Kansas no more.

Thirdly, “Ghosts of Grace” continues this pace and gives a song where Blake Judd's vocals are snarled out. The rhythm in “Ghost” is more gnarled, raw, and punk than most Black Metal. It is a twisted beast of a song and ranks as one of my favorites. The next track is a creepy instrumental that is cosmic and expansive, leaving one to wonder if Lovecraft was right after all. This song, perhaps, may be the most closely related to Psychedelic but I suggest you check out Axis of Perdition before you seal this conclusion in a tomb of association.

This calm is shattered by “Your True Enemy,” which is by far one of the best Black Metal songs I have heard in a long time. It is raw, the vocals are deep in the mix (but not too deep) and it is unrelenting in its blast. The solo in this song is so freakin' Sabbath or Deep Purple - it is amazing. “Code Negative” is, for lack of a better term, the ballad or perhaps, the anti-ballad. It is slower and its tendrils slither out to hypnotize the listener into a false sense of security. This psychotic calm is destroyed by “Omnivore,' which is my other favorite song. “Omnivore” is a devastating, pummeling act of malevolent blasting pure evil musically incarnated. While “Omnivore” blasts and pummels, it does it in a way that few Black Metal bands are able to do, it does it in way that is more transcendent and destructive. Nachtmystium seem to recognize the trick to proper destruction is to deliver the goods with various sources of pummel and blast - not just straight blast - make the ear enjoy being beaten mercilessly.

Bottom line is this, Nachtmystium has delivered an exceptional album. “Assassins” is transcendent and raw. It is eclectic enough and tastefully delivered that it should appeal to all metalheads and perhaps cause some to check out other noteworthy Black Metal as well, name checks: Watain, Deathspell Omega, Vreid, 1349, Goatwhore, Akercocke, Anaal Nathrakh, Axis of Perdition. If you are a fan of any of those bands that I just listed, you need to own “Assassins.”

So, in closing, I would argue that Nachtmystium have not gone Psychedelic but have gone Apocalyptic, in the same way that Neurosis, Isis, Cult of Luna, Mastodon, Baroness have gone before. Once again.
 
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