Nachtmystium – Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. 2
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There are two basic ways of listening to music: “fuck it, it’s good/bad”, and marinating. The latter is how a younger version of myself resolved to listen to all music forever, taking time and peeling back layer after layer of thoughtfully erected sound. I was a music snob. I still am to a degree, but I’ve since realized that life is short, I don’t always have time for marinating, and I can just trust my taste in the moment.
I suspect Blake Judd had a similar moment sometime around the making of his band’s Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1, which, for all the hemming and hawing about its relationship to black metal, is just a damn good collection of songs. (Ed. note: We don’t all agree. See here.) Here was a guy who grew up with heavy metal blinders on, started expanding his palette, and extended that to his band – successfully.
For the most part, that continues on Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. 2 (Century Media, 2010). The psychedelic element is still present, but things have evolved further with a four-on-the-floor dance feel in the rhythm section of certain songs. Synths are more prominent on this album, often as a lead instrument. That’s the big difference between this and Assassins: on most of these songs, the guitar is a texture, not the focus. Vocals come to the foreground as well (more on that later). There are hardly any riffs in sight.
“Blood Trance Fusion”
And that’s totally fine with me. If people cringe about the murmurs of a “Wax Trax meets Darkthrone” vibe, they should crank “No Funeral” and “Blood Trance Fusion” and ask themselves if they still care. “Addicts” is another fantastically moody anthem whose chorus should be screamed by a roomful of people for full effect. Sanford Parker’s production is nothing short of stunning. The carefully layered guitars and synths come off clean but not overly-polished, a totally appropriate accommodation for the songwriting evolution. Ultimately, Blake Judd is shifting Nachtmystium from a black metal band to a big rock band with blackened roots. His heroes in Pink Floyd made a similar metamorphosis from art rock band to big rock band with artsy roots. The thing that carried them there? Songs with lyrics that put a lump in your throat.
Here’s where Addicts comes up short. Unfortunately, Judd isn’t a nuanced lyricist, and it shows with the de-emphasized guitar work. He delivers a loosely woven cautionary tale of drug abuse that could soundtrack an addict’s hitting bottom in any number of after-school specials. Perhaps it’s informed by actual experience, but it’s very outside-looking-in (I’m assuming), and it’s not convincing. “Fucked-up/strung-out” – you don’t say. I’m not saying it’s insincere; it’s just heavy-handed and doesn’t match the quality of the music. I’m surprised more reviews of Addicts aren’t evaluating its theme. It is such an explicit aspect of the record, from the cover art to the clear and present vocals. Kudos to Judd all the same for not hiding behind lyrical ambiguities.
Addicts‘ merits more than outweigh these concerns. This is a significant album for Nachtmystium, and the surrounding fanfare does factor into my assessment. You can hear the responsibility they’ve placed into making this release their moment. They were striving for a marinating listen, and they came close, but those heights require something more. For now, I say fuck it, it’s good.
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One last thing – there’s an uncanny similarity between album closer “Every Last Drop”:
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…and an old favorite of mine, “Guess I’ll Forget You” by San Diego mope-rockers, The Black Heart Procession.
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