I’m all for a good comeback story. Everyone wants to root for the little guy, kicked in the teeth, sand thrown in his eyes, left to the concrete to be considered down-and-out by the masses at large, just to spring right back, fire in his belly, to show the world he’s stronger than ever. Adversity be damned, coming back from the proverbial dead to flip the bird, spit fire and brimstone at his enemies… we all crave that story. It’s so empowering, so endearing, so fucking metal, that it touches us in our collective feels like few other things can. Nachtmystium mainman Blake Judd has set out to achieve such a feat with what was originally Nachtmystium‘s final album, The World We Left Behind. And for what was supposed to be a fulfilling epilogue, it just ends up being confused as all fuck.
But it starts off strong with the powerful instrumental “Intrusion.” With a trebly, scorchy guitar melody, it begins as a slow, plodding number, but ramps up with intensity until the end, which I can only describe as a blackened Iron Maiden gallop, completed by some impressive drumming by newcomer Sam Shroyer. It’s one helluva great set-up, hinting at things to come…
…just to be followed by “Fireheart.” I kept looking at the album cover to see if the words “Black Meddle Pt. III” were hidden somewhere in all that red, as this sounds like a throwaway track from the Addicts sessions. Unfortunately, the track lacks the fluidity that made that album an interesting journey into psychedelic post-rock influenced black metal. And it’s that fluctuation of quality — not to mention grasping ideas from previous albums and flinging them like blackened poo at the walls with hopes that something sticks — that makes The World We Left Behind such a frustrating listen.
For every powerful song on the album, such as the driving “Into the Abyss,” the mid-to-end of “Tear You Down,” or the very Norwegian-feeling “Voyager,” you have danceable numbers like “On the Other Side.” “Epitaph for a Dying Star,” the letdown that poses as a closer, reaches flaccidly for the same effects that made Addicts‘s “Every Last Drop” such an amazingly sad epilogue, but without the heavy emotional pull created by Chris Black (who penned a lot of the band’s more engaging tunes). Also conspicuously absent are the powerful vocal performances by Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont, or the hypnotic lull provided by former producer/electronics whiz, Sanford Parker. These three all appear to have broken ties with Blake prior to The World We Left Behind being recorded.
The confusion bleeds into the production as well. The guitars sound great, but the bass appears and disappears sporadically. The drums, though, could use some serious work, as the snare sounds like a wet paper bag full of Rice Krispies. Blake Judd, however, went to great lengths to give a strong vocal performance, and it shows. You can clearly make out his cries of rebirth, rising from the ashes, etc., but when the music is so all over the place, it doesn’t matter one iota how driven you say you are.
Consistency makes an incredible bedfellow when conveying what you are trying to say. Whether it’s in the stability of your band lineup (which at this point, Nachtmystium‘s high-powered revolving door is making even Jons Leon and Schaffer blush with envy), your songwriting, or even in your decision to keep your band running or not, it helps to boost your message. Especially if it’s a powerful theme such as redemption and coming back. As it stands, this album screams “contractual obligation” more than it does “returning with a vengeance” [or “going out with a bang” – AMG]. Very sad.