Assassins: Black Meddle Part I
posted on 7/2008 By:
As of late, the mere mention of Nachtmystium seems to illicit a predictable handful of conjurations. Debates over black metal scene politics, ham-handed proclaimations of genre revitalization, and abuse of the word "psychedelia" are all bogey golf right now. So, in the spirit of keeping the bullshit to a minimum, I'd like to conjure a few proclaimations of my own.
1) Black metal scene politics mean fuckall.
2) If, in fact, black metal were actually in need of any type of reviltalization, it sure as hell wouldn't come from one band. From Illinois.
3) The term "psychedelic black metal" has all the appeal of smoking meth with Corey Haim.
Truthfully, however, there's no other way to describe the sonic headfuck that these dudes have put forth here, and there's no doubt that they've played their hand admirably.
Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1 (gotta love that title) is their fourth full-length amid a prolific career, but oddly enough, carries the vitality and excitement of a debut. Blake Judd and Co. have taken the full-on turn toward reinvention here, fully capitalizing on the influences and quirks that they've been cultivating for the past few years. Assassins is their long-brewing cashcrop, a violently potent bathtub gin made of ingredients that, on paper, seemingly go together like machetes and infants. Fortunately for all of us, it works astonishingly well. This harvest signals their first foray into crafting truly original music. Granted, it is by way of the direct influence of their forebears, but such is the game, friends...such is the game.
Assassins carries a strange vibe to shake, a shaky vein to tap; the tracks that comprise this amorphous mass bob and flow by the time of an unpredicable pulse. While it is truly a beast to be tackled in whole, there's no doubt that the strongest offering is the title track, which is a straight-up cool-as-shit primer for the alien cynicism that subsequently unfolds. Nihilistic, cagey, and drenched in spit-splitting, frantic gang vocals, this song blasts and steamrolls before shoving its (and your) head underneath the waves. The 3:06 mark of this song is where Nachtmystium truly find their hearts, dig their fingers into the valves, and split them in half for all to see. Swerving, sinking, diving, dirging...the band troll the depths of mind n' matter with full psyched-out furor, fucking with fire while doused in water. Chilled vibrations collide with precise blasting (*cough*Tony Laureano*cough*), creating the second of many subtle and not-so-subtle nods to Floydian oddity on here. Should this be a red flag to metalheads who can't get down with throwback pretense? Absolutely not. This vibe --this frost/fire LSD trip into death's maw-- is so tastefully woven throughout this disc that even metalheads that detest Pink Floyd and their spawn (there are undoubtedly many) will not be left with the bitter taste of meddle in their mouths.
And lo, the new journey has begun, the band stomping hard, alternating Darkthroned fervor with dirgelike, ethereal recoils. Highlighted by the absoultely ferocious "Your True Enemy", the airy, melodic blackness of "Ghosts of Grace", and the anchor of the Seasick Triptych, "II: Oceanborn", which features some fantastic saxophone work courtesy of Yakuza's Bruce Lamont, the album is truly a stretch of the creators' imaginations. Carrying both 80-proof, enamel-cracking anthems and stoned-out, bloodpooling bliss in the same hand, Assassins is unburded by neither...it just spikes a trail of goosebumps from fingertip to the spine. Treading its own path through known corridors, Assassins is a new, bold stake in the ground. Not necessarily an all-shadowing pillar of domination, mind you; moreso a multi-faceted totem of sights and sounds to come.
This is no messianic work of musical prophets. 'Tis simply a really, really fucking cool record, a snapshot of a band that has seemingly just begun to find their true voice. If you're lurking downtown with the heavy metal goings-on, this is one of those "perk your ears up 'n take note" type-of-things. Get on it.
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Addicts: Black Meddle Part II