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Nachtmystium - Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. I
Thursday, January 01 2009 @ 01:00 AM PST
Contributed by: Sage

Assassins:  Black Meddle Pt. I

Artist: Nachtmystium United States

Title: Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. I

Label: Century Media United States

Genre:  Experimental / Psychedelic Black Metal

01 One of These Nights (Intro)
02 Assassins
03 Ghosts of Grace
04 Away from Light
05 Your True Enemy
06 Code Negative
07 Omnivore
08 Seasick Pt. I:  Drowned at Dusk
09 Seasick Pt. II:  Oceanborne
10 Seasick Pt. III:  Silent Sunrise

It really doesn't seem that there's much gray area for Nachtmystium these days in terms of whether you're a fan or not.  As the band's career, it slowly trudged into that gray area as the band's sound progressed, with fans falling off the wagon and other's climbing on, some for a brief period only to decide that with the release of Assassins:  Black Meddle Pt. I, the band had taken their psychedelic textures and unique sense of humor, perhaps, a bit too far.  But when you stop holding onto cliches and definitions, when you stop letting yourself have expectations for what a band SHOULD be, you see all that's left:  The music – and that's how it should be and should have been from the beginning of black metal.  New school (to the furthest extent of the phrase) or not, Black Meddle Pt. I, like most albums, has its high points and its low.

A number of projects come to mind throughout Nachtmystium, from the very first seconds of Assassins nearly screaming Opeth and falling into a more stoner-oriented black metal sound, then crossing into territories much like Agalloch with the spacey minimal lead on Ghosts of Grace.  The vocals bring about a new kind of sound to black metal, wailings that aren't quite blackened enough to seem torturous, but rather desperate and rather mentally unstable in general, and thus perhaps are more frightening than any kind of inaudible depressive scream that black metal could support.  At times though, as with moments on the title track, it just isn't convincing enough because of production issues.  It comes out way over the mix, at times sounding like an anthem-chant punk track, while the following hits at perfection, working evenly with the music.

Another interesting aspect of the album are the purposely lo-fi and minimal bridging tracks, such as the introductory, nearly childish, wind-ridden track.  Away from the Light is featured as another interesting, non-complex tie-in track, and while many may scorn the band for allowing such tracks to be on this album, it ties in with the overall unrest and uneasiness of the album.  In a way, its abrasiveness in silence, its static to your ears as it proves unexpected and unwanted, much like the negative in a film, it reverses what black metal typically has because known for in terms of extremity.

Tracks like Your True Enemy feature moments that Nachtmystium are truly making into their signature sound.  Forced, expressive, and melancholic, tracks like this really run the gauntlet of Nachtmystium's talents in the black metal realm.  An immensely emotional and depressive journey through, again, nearly anthem like choruses and dreamy atmospheres and melodies that rival more the likes of ethereal or shoegaze music as seen on the darker side in projects like Tearwave if singled out.  In particular, there is a moment after the groove breakdown in this track that simply screams genius and that the listener should really be able to feel and get into:

In sickness, In madness
I change my place in line
Not Sorry, Not Guilty
I make you pay for life!

Past these tracks though, you haven't seen anything really experimental and crazy until you get to the seasick trio of tracks.  While the beginning starts out interestingly enough with squeal swells and dreamy atmospheres as if riding out into the ocean itself, the true trip doesn't happen until track two with mind-blowingly insane saxaphone solos paired with nearly jazzy, definitely groovey high-scaled guitar rhythms, much like you might here from post-rock or post-hardcore bands of today.  When the saxaphone kicks in though it gives the flavor of Am Universum-era Amorphis while retaining a semi-progressive air like that of Opeth, but always retaining a unique groove style.  Abruptly, the track slams into several walls of droning soundwaves the flow into and against one another into a hum that brings us to the albums last track, of lightly black metal and mostly post-rock flavor, Silent Sunrise.  If those two tracks spoke in music of what they saw in a crazy trip, then I'm sure they were glad to finally see morning.  So much for away from the light, eh?  Prepare to hear that saxaphone one more time though in a strong and dreamy atmosphere as the album comes to a close.

In general, Nachtmystium are still most definitely moving in the right direction as far as defining their signature sound, and thus perhaps an entirely new subgenre / culture within black metal itself if it finds a big enough following, though as they've been signed to Century Media, and if you've been to the band's live performances, it should be immediately clear that they are one of the most demanding and followed black metal acts in America today.  The primary downside to the release is that many, including myself, prefer the production of the previous releases.  While there isn't anything wrong with the current production, it doesn't seem to do the band justice in its clean sound.  But when you sign with a label like Century Media, I suppose certain things are demanded of you.  Whether this is the reason for the change is unknown, but as the timing fits, it would seem that way.  This is, regardless, a fantastic album, and thus continues to push Nachtmystium further towards their own throne amongst the black metal elite today.


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