Assassins: Black Meddle Part I

Although used sparingly, a distinct, striking psychedelic influence began creeping into USBM act Nachtmystium with their past two albums, Eulogy IV and Instinct:Decay. A rippling soundscape here, a feedback-soaked, emotional solo there – they were just the first tentative tabs under the tongue. On Assassins, we get a handful of the good stuff. (So if you’re allergic to Pink Floyd or like your black metal pure and filthy, you may want to tune out now.) The psychedelic direction shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that pun in the title. Starting with the release of Meddle, Pink Floyd burst into their most memorable period, reaching peaks that were by turns theatrical and transcendent. It seems Nachtmystium has reached the cusp of a new way forward as well.

“One of These Nights”, another clear nod to the first track on Meddle (and not the Eagles song of the same name), starts the journey with a bleary, electronic windscape and a slow, galloping riff. You expect that gloomy ether to breathe out into the next track, but instead, “Assassins” dives into a typical black metal assault – steady, furious drumming (courtesy of Nile‘s Tony Laureano) dominating a winding, mysterious riff. Then, somewhat unexpectedly, Nachtmystium reveal another influence, in the form of a shouted, anthemic chorus: hardcore punk.

The punk influence was hinted at on Instinct:Decay, but I don’t remember it being as obvious as it is here. It depends on your taste for that genre (not my favorite), but I found that the fist-pumping mantra, nihilistic as it may be (“We are nothing!”), teeters on bravado. It’s an attitude I think is fine for punk and power metal, but seems out of place in black metal, which is usually more reserved and opaque. The second half of the track more than makes up for that, erupting into five minutes’ worth of shimmering guitar lines over rugged chug, like a black metal aurora borealis over craggy mountains. It’s one of the album’s strongest moments, and perfectly captures the meld of black metal and psychedelia promised in the album title.

Plenty of high points still to come, too. “Ghosts of Grace” features little in the way of psychedelic fireworks, but an echoey, rippling guitar line conjures the pensive mood just as ably. “Omnivore” explodes into a core of frenzied blastbeats and jagged riffs – like the union of Satyricon and Anaal Nathrakh – then twists and distorts into Blut Aus Nord halfway through. And “Code Negative” strikes a wandering USBM vibe like compatriots Xasthur and Leviathan, but it’s buoyed and brightened out of the gloom as it transforms into a gorgeously cold, Floydian dirge of keyboard and guitar solos.

Assassins saves its boldest, most chimerical jaunt for last – a three-part epic called “Seasick.” Part I, “Drowned at Dusk,” is absolutely hypnotic, perfectly melding one of Agalloch‘s organic elegies with the shivery, cries-in-the-mist keens from Pink Floyd‘s “Echoes.” “Oceanborn” jangles into tribal thump and a nimble Santana solo – and then a bunch of jazzy, brassy horns saunter in. This is no longer black metal at all, but what the hell, it’s great and unexpected, and you know that when the blizzard of guitars comes screaming back in, it’s going to be brilliant. Sadly, that storm never materializes – the Neurosis-like “Silent Sunrise” delivers some heft and aggression, but it doesn’t become terribly arresting until the triptych closes out with a perfect blend of parts I and II.

Despite some remarkable moments on Assassins – moments I wish could’ve been stretched out to longer lengths, in fact – I still get the sense that with all of the new elements here, Nachtmystium is at a bit of a crossroads. The straightahead black metal and hardcore punk seems like they’re not quite ready to give themselves completely over to psychedelia, but are still trying to satisfy all camps. If they choose to stay at this point and straddle both genres equally, that’s fine – I’ll be eagerly awaiting Black Meddle Part II. But I also know what a completely expansive Nachtmystium would sound like: mind-blowing.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
July 7th, 2008


  1. Commented by: swampthang

    “one of these nights” is kind of an ode to the pink floyd song “one of these days” off their Meddle album lol wierd right i know. also don’t know if your familiar with Yakuza but Bruce Lamont of that band plays the sax on Oceanborn. good band good tunes good review!!!

  2. Commented by: swampthang

    my bad i totally didn’t read the review closely where you mentioned the pink floyd album uhhh srry dude

  3. Commented by: gabaghoul
  4. Commented by: None

    I was planning to skip this one, but your review made me reconsider. You’ve got some power with words, man. Is this really on Century Media? Didn’t know that.

  5. Commented by: gabaghoul

    yep they just moved from BattleKommand to CM. thanks for the nod.

  6. Commented by: fightingmike

    I like this record as a whole. There are a few little miss steps in the experimental dept and the drumming is a little stiff on the slower groove parts, but it is definately the best american black metal right now.

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