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Album Reviews : Nachtmystium – Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1

By on August 6, 2008


There are plenty of black metal bands around these days that are blending the style with other genres, but it’s not very often I find one that really stands out and makes me go “Wow, now that’s something special”. But that is exactly what I thought when I heard Nachtmystium’s latest album. After several years of releasing textbook black metal albums, “Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1” sees the band expand their style and find a more unique sound for themselves.

The album is essentially psychedelic black metal; generally fast black metal guitars, mixed in with atmospheric backing sounds and electronic sound effects that sound like something straight off Pink Floyd’s classic “Dark Side Of The Moon”. These electronics are very prominent here and feature in every song. Just like on Pink Floyd’s albums, these sounds create a very spaced out feel at times. At other times, they simply add another layer of depth behind the metal riffing which gives the album a much thicker sound despite the rough production. Yes, this is another black metal album with purposely rough production (something I’m not usually a big fan of), however it actually works well here. It means that the dirty guitars, harsh vocals, and electronic sounds all blend together very smoothly, which gives the band the ability to subtly introduce effects slowly, which would not work anywhere near as well if it had a clearer production.

“One Of These Nights” opens the album; a relatively short intro track that starts off with some fairly calm wind sound effects, but is soon taken over by almost a marching riff, some subtle deep vocals and fantastic drums that really drive the music.

The intro runs straight into the longest song on the album “Assassins”. Musically, this song starts out as more straight forward black metal than most of the album, however the vocals (which come in early in the song) instantly separate the band from stereotypical black metal bands. They aren’t quite as harsh as most, instead being more rough and distorted. It’s also more of a yell, or more toward actual singing, rather than shrieking or screaming. Half way through, the song slows with some high pitched guitars featuring a slight echo, the wind sounds from the intro track appearing again, and a variety of spacey effects fading in and out constantly. The song then speeds back up for a second before dying down to just the electronic sounds changing in pitch, volume, and from left speaker to right. These electronics last for the whole last 2 minutes of the track, but they go surprisingly quickly. Nachtmystium have perfected the balance between music, sound effects, and ambience.

“Ghosts of Grace” is mid paced track that features more subtle sound effects that hide in the background for most of the track. Similar to the previous song, it features vocals that are catchy, but not in a melodic way. I’m not really sure what it is, but these are the type of songs you’d “sing” along to at a live show. It helps more than the vocals are fairly loud and if you concentrate hard enough, you can figure out the words enough to sing along for the most part. This track also fades into just a repeating electronic loop toward the end, however only for a short amount of time.

The next track, “Away From The Light” is an interlude I suppose, but it’s good enough to stand alone as a fairly ambient song. Some subtle electronics dance away in the background, while a piano slowly repeats itself over the top. There isn’t really any variation here, it’s mainly the same thing repeating for just over 2 minutes, but it creates a fantastic, somewhat creepy atmosphere. The kind of atmosphere you’d experience walking down a dark, empty, underground tunnel, with the sounds of the unknown surrounding you.

“Your True Enemy” picks up the pace again, with a quick intro that almost sounds like it’s going to be a post-metal song, but it quickly explodes into the fastest and heaviest track on the album. Fast guitars, faster drums, and the raw production make a large part of this song sound like one consistent sound rather than individual instruments, while Blake Judd yells over the top with a desperate and somewhat sad sound. The heaviness subsides for a bit with some more electronics, and a guitar solo that sounds like it would fit onto a classic hard rock/early metal album, but picks up again for the last part of the track.

This is where the album breaks away even more from the norms of black metal. In fact, I wouldn’t call the last half of the album black metal at all, I’m not sure what I would call it. “Code Negative”, my favourite track on the album, is slow, dark, and sinister. This is the peak of the album when it comes to atmosphere. Those of you who know Ulver’s “Shadows of the Sun” album will know what it’s like to zone out to the music and feel like you’re somewhere much more beautiful. This track does the same thing, except in an evil and more menacing way. The vocals here are an echoing whisper, sounding like that of a haunting spirit. The latter part of this song features what may be one of my absolute favourite guitar solos, soaring over the top of everything else for the last 2 minutes of the song. This is the highlight of the album for me. It’s a track that starts of sounding evil and haunting, but by the end sounds more desperate and simply sad, but all done in a very beautiful way.

Back into the heavy stuff, “Omnivore” blasts ahead, in a similar way that the earlier track did, but with a darker sound, almost more toward doom metal at times. The guitars are more distorted, and the track has a heavier bottom end. There is some fantastic bass work in here, resembling more what you would hear on a tech death album. And again, similar to the earlier songs, a host of electronics and echoing vocals.

The album ends with the “Seasick” trilogy. The band get even more varied here with “Seasick Part 1: Drowned At Dusk” being a fairly soft track, which fits the name perfectly. I can’t pick what it is but this track is something fitting of the sea, a still, quiet one anyway. There is a repeating guitar piece throughout a large of this track that sounds more like one sound varying in pitch rather than a string of guitar notes. There’s a large use of pedal hear with much of the guitars sound wavering in and out. Clean guitars softly echo over the top early on but eventually get much louder with a single note occurring every few seconds. If the quiet, bottom end guitars are the water, the latter higher pitched guitars are the seabirds.

“Seasick Part II: Oceanborn” is much more upbeat than the rest of the album, that has a very jazzy sound at times, particularly in the drums. The first half of the track alternates between guitar and bluesy saxophone solos, which sounds absolutely amazing, before morphing into a loud whining sound effect which certainly doesn’t agree with my ears at high volume. This eventually quietens down into a humming noise which continues through to the next and final track…

…”Seasick Part III: Silent Sunrise”. This song sounds a bit like Part 1, but sped up a tad to create a sound that is a tiny bit more positive. More desperate vocals come in over the top here, creating a sense of longing. Once these vocals subside, the track continues on with more of the same sound bit now including some clean guitars mixed in. The volume picks up for some long, dragged out saxophone notes before fading into silence.

This album is brilliant. It’s such a refreshing album to listen to, to finally hear something that really stands out amongst the hordes of bands that may not be standard black metal, but aren’t really unique either. It’s occurred to me now that I perhaps got a bit carried away with this review, and there probably wasn’t much need for a track by track review, but I love this album enough that I wanted to keep writing til the album ended. This is the type of album you listen to as a whole, and I can’t count how many times I have since I got my hands on it. Check this band out. It’s your loss if you don’t. 9.8/10

Band: Nachtmystium
Album: Assassins – Black Meddle Part 1
Year: 2008
Genre: Psychedelic Black Metal
Label: Century Media
Origin: USA
http://www.myspace.com/nachtmystium

Track Listing:
1. One Of These Nights
2. Assassins
3. Ghosts of Grace
4. Away From The Light
5. Your True Enemy
6. Code Negative <- Reviewers Choice
7. Omnivore
8. Seasick Part I: Drowned At Dusk
9. Seasick Part II: Oceanborn
10. Seasick Part II: Silent Sunrise

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.