NACHTMYSIUM’S ASSASSINS: BLACK MEDDLE PART 1 IS A SOLID LINK BETWEEN PSYCHEDELIA AND BLACK METAL
“A Seed for Suffering,” the first proper song on Nachtmystium’s last album, Instinct:Decay, felt like a thrown gauntlet. After almost four minutes of pretty good black metal, the following three are a wall of psychedelic guitars all looping around a riff that wouldn‘t sound out of place on an early Burzum record. In a world as narrow as that of black metal, it was akin to handing out British flags in the dingiest pub in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This, of course, lead to two years of anticipation for their next record, to be put out on Century Media with an actual budget. After months of reading overwhelmingly positive press for the album, it only left one to wonder whether or not the band would collapse under the weight of their own hype or continue to establish a solid link between psychedelia and black metal.
Gods be praised, it’s the latter.
Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1 is a further blurring of the band’s line between their corpsepaint donning forefathers and their acid-riddled grand-forefathers. The record is dark, but not as bleak as their suicidal American counterparts in Xasthur and Leviathan. And while there are definite black metal touchstones on Assassins – blast beats, hyper-strummed minor chords, Blake Judd’s raspy wail – there’s a warmth typically not associated with the genre (read: any warmth at all) splashed all over the record. Having an actual production budget helps quite a bit, as the band uses it to fill in the blanks with lush reverb and a triumphant wall of guitars. While others in black metal have overstuffed their work with excess when presented with money (i.e. Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir utilizing orchestras and not knowing what the fuck to do with them), Nachtmystium used it to make a good record sound better.
Though the band have made the leap from psychedelic black metal to blackened psychedelia (a bigger leap than one may think), this by no means signals a dulling of Nachtmystium’s edge. For an album that revels in analog beauty, it also still has some ball-crushing intensty. “Your True Enemy” and especially “Omnivore” have the sort of dark vitriol that could stand side by side with the best of Motorhead or (gasp!) Darkthrone. While Instinct:Decay’s only problem was that it lacked any anthems save “A Seed For Suffering,” Assassins is practically nothing BUT. This is bolstered by the record’s abundance of gang-chant vocals, making it hard not to pump your fist and join in after 1 or 2 listens.
The Pink Floyd influence is present in more than just the record’s title. It ranges from obvious -the album’s opener “One of These Nights” a nod to Pink Floyd’s Meddle opener “One of These Days” – to the subtle; the slow-burning, altered state blues of David Gilmour’s fretwork is practically woven into the album’s DNA. But it’s most certainly not hard to see through the whatever-you-got haze toward the fact that this is still a crushing record, showing that metal is still more than capable of being heavy and breaking new ground at once. Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1 is the sound of black metal discovering the dark potential in the music of more than just its immediate past. And what a glorious sound it is, indeed.
(four and a half out of five horns)