Despite single-handedly dragging Nachtmystium from the benighted depths of the US black metal scene to their current position as one of its biggest names, it has not been an easy ride for mainman Blake Judd. Years spent battling drug addiction appeared to have paid their price with Judd announcing last year that The World We Left Behind (Century Media) would be Nachtmystium’s final recording. Howeve,r a recent change of heart means that the band is once again an active entity with Judd seemingly ready to lay his demons to rest and build on Nachtmystium’s successful merging of BM aesthetics with Pink Floyd-influenced prog and post-punk elements that has won them so many admirers. It’s a winning formula and one that Judd has further explored on this new album after the back to basics approach of 2012’s punishing Silencing Machine.
Despite the band’s status, first track ‘Intrusion’ seems to be more of a collection of rehearsal room riffs than anything resembling an actual song, more of a warm up exercise that somehow ended up on the finished product. Thankfully the Nachtmystium we know and love announces itself in style with ‘Fireheart’; a hip-shaking post-punk number chock full of jangling melodies that employs several downright catchy riffs that Joy Division might have written had they been around long enough to hear Deathcrush (Posercorpse). A few weird yet restrained keyboards nicely supplement the riffs and driving chorus before the mid-paced introspection of ‘Voyager’ takes things down to more downbeat levels with Judd doing plenty of soul searching in the morose lyrics.
The first appearance of the scalding black metal of the early days is in the eight minute plus assault of ‘Into the Endless Abyss’ which perfectly melds the aggression and iciness of the Norwegian second wave with the depressive elements that are the trademark of USBM. Keyboards nip like wasps rather than drowning the riffs in synth rendering the track a cathartic yet challenging experience, proving Judd still knows how to turn on the hate when required. However, modern Nachtmystium is more about atmosphere than pace these days as the churning riff and sheer gloom of ‘In the Absence of Existence’ lets you know when the band are at their most crushing.
The title track has a defiantly playful nature, merging epic synths with the most basic of drumbeats and another of those killer mid-paced riffs that seems to come so naturally to Judd. The melodies are as achingly sad as ever of course. However, it’s on the final track ‘Epitaph for a Dying Star’ that everything gels perfectly with the gorgeous, ethereal female vocals, soaring melodies and utterly crushing post-metal riff that drives the whole thing confirming just how lucky we are that Judd has postponed his retirement.
The World We Left Behind would have been a brilliant epitaph to a fantastic band but it now takes on a new perspective as something Judd can build on in the future, provided he keeps his demons in check. Or maybe he should let them off the leash entirely? Either way, Nachtmystium are back at the top of the pile and long may they glower down from there.
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