Words About Music
Nachtmystium “The World We Left Behind”
Being in an American band that is commonly labeled as “black metal”—whether you’re strict about playing that particular genre or not—is almost always grounds for some sort of controversy. Whether it’s Liturgy’s outspoken frontman writing a manifesto to describe the music he writes or Deafheaven’s opus being a shoegaze record, Americans have a way of taking heavy music to levels of controversy outdone only by, well, the original Scandinavian black metal musicians. One of the most tumultuous figures in this category is Blake Judd, the leader and sole consistent member of Illinois metal group Nachtmystium. Though the group started out as a black metal band, they quickly warped their sound into something more psychedelic, atmospheric, and conceptual. Nachtmystium has received considerable acclaim for many of their albums, but the acclaim is often drowned out by the alleged Nazi ties which members of the band continue to deny as well as Judd’s legal issues and drug addiction. Late last year he was arrested for ripping off several fans by selling merchandise he never actually delivered, keeping the money for himself. He ended Nachtmystium’s 13-year run in the midst of this so he could recover, leaving one final album, “The World We Left Behind,” to be released nine months later.
Though Blake Judd has since gone on to say that he is reforming Nachtmystium, let’s assume for a second that “The World We Left Behind” is the final album in a long, tumultuous career. The band is one of American heavy metal’s most creative and thought-provoking, taking black metal’s tropes and inverting them to the point that the band can scarcely be called black metal. For one, Judd’s vocals are much more decipherable than most black metal vocalists like theirs to be. Another thing is that the music is very low on blast beats, a commonality in black metal music. And for the most part, the band maintains their deviation from black metal’s norms on this album. Still, “The World We Left Behind” doesn’t feel even remotely challenging or interesting compared to the rest of Nachtmystium’s post-2004 discography.
I think one of my biggest gripes with this album is Judd’s lyrics. Lyrics in heavy metal are usually secondary to me as I can hardly understand them in the first place, but when put out up front this way I can’t help but be truly distracted, especially when the band does choose to incorporate a sound similar to that of a black metal band. For example, the song “Into the Endless Abyss” is the most black metal song on the album, with its fast-paced drums and tremolo guitars. The vocals on this song, however, distract from all the cacophony with bestial and demonic lyricism that does nothing to shock me or provoke any thought. For a band that shows significant negativity for black metal’s current state, they certainly didn’t appear to try too hard to distance themselves from that on songs like this.
Considering Nachtmystium’s seasoned history as one of America’s most interesting metal acts of the past decade or so, I certainly hope that “The World We Left Behind” is a minor footnote rather than their true swan song. I’m not one to root for someone as pretentious and troubled as Blake Judd appears to be, but he’s responsible for a solid discography. If Judd truly wishes to revive Nachtmystium for musical rather than monetary purposes, I certainly hope that the resulting music is better than this album. “The World We Left Behind” is certainly an example of the band’s rebelliousness and experimental nature, but it’s far from their best material.
SCORE – 5.1
FAVORITE TRACKS – Voyager, In the Absence of Existence, Epitaph for a Dying Star
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