Nachtmystium´s progression has been almost Odyssian in nature. Starting as relatively by-the-numbers black metal, the Chicago act, led by vocalist/guitarist Blake Judd, took a fork in the road to explore their own experimental and progressive journey over the course of a few releases while the glut of black metal dabbled in post-metalisms and writing aimless songs of ridiculous length. On Silencing Machine, their sixth overall album, their path has merged back into traditional black metal territory, and fortunately they’ve brought with them a few of the tricks they’ve gleaned from their journey, resulting in their finest album yet.
In short, Nachtmystium have taken the clever bells and whistles that made their more adventurous outputs (mostly Black Meddle Parts I and II) the experimental and interesting albums they were, and merged those with the more orthodox tenets of black metal (i.e. intensity and darkness). The end result is a true marriage of progression and fundamentals.
The brilliance of their experimental tendencies lies in their subtleties. Throughout most of the album, those innovative flourishes are non-invasive and relegated to electronic accents and noisescapes as well as textural intonations that come to the surfaces through the production. The title track is a great example. Taking a straight forward black metal riff, complete with some fuzzy grit, they introduce white-noise flanges that flip between left and right quickly, fading in and out before throwing Judd’s echoed vocals in for an added cavernous sound. When all three elements come together, it sounds like futuristic black metal sans any sci-fi kitsch. By the time the chorus hits around the one minute mark, you’ve got yourself the house band at Pandemonium.
However, even when the band slows things down to go for a more eerie approach (“And I Control You”), they prove quite easily how black metal’s basic conventions can be limiting to producing dark sounds. This is one of the better songs on the record; winding things up slowly, building and adding instruments before a cacophonous declaration of song at the 45 seconds mark. This rolling intro is aided by a buzzing electronic hum that adds greatly to the vibe, a perfect example of how their craft splices experimentation with black metal evilness without being overt. After laying the heat on, they then add to the mix an absolutely essential black metal riff that is delightfully ghostly, before dispersing into a smokey haze with a saxophone siren call.
There are no blatant “No Funeral”-esque songs on this album (aka outright electronic voyages) or pure psych-rock expositions like there have been in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I loved what they’ve done prior, but this new album is cherry-picking the best riffs and progressive elements and reducing them into a great mixture that is mostly consistent through all ten tracks. I say “mostly” because there are a couple of moments where things overstay their welcome just a bit more than necessary. However, it should be more than compensation, as well as a compliment, to point out that no other bands were named throughout the length of this review. I’d say that’s evidence Nachtmystium have found their niche within an already nuanced niche of music. Here’s hoping they hunker down and carve deeper into this space they occupy, because Silencing Machine is a great album.[Visit the band's website]