If you ask any black metal purist what real “black metal” should sound like, you will probably get a slew of bands that, seem to blur into each other somewhat in a slew of blast beats, tremelo-picked riffs and shrieked vocals – and woe betide he who dares to experiment with this time honoured recipe. Black metal is a cutthroat genre among its fans, and bands that defy the trends of the genre yet still dub their metal “black” are quick to draw the ire of the once faithful. Blake Judd’s Nachtmystium took a major gamble when they decided to pursure a more avant-garde approach to black metal with Instinct: Decay and have both won and lost fans, but so far, (In this angry metal guy’s opinion, at least) their less orthodox releases have been consistent and relevant to the modern black metal landscape.
Black Meddle II: Addicts (Hereafter, just Addicts) is the follow up album to 2008’s Black Meddle Part I: Assassins, a drug-soaked trip of psychedelic black metal that got favorable reviews from all corners. It was a fun record laced with hallucinogens; and now after the haze has cleared and the colors have faded away we get the crushing comedown of Addicts. I would not go as far to say it is a concept album, by any means, but all of the songs seem to have this overarching theme of desperation and despair often associated with any form of addiction.
From the get-go Addicts is a dark album – there is something about the mood created by a chorus spitefully spelling out “Nothing hurts more than being born” that draws you in and makes you feel completely alone. This solitude is broken violently by “High on Hate”, a chaotic bombardment of blast beats and gritty guitars that ease into a more measured melodic groove towards the end. And then the album really starts!
“Nightfall” is easily the highlight of the album along with the title track. Musically it is closer to indie rock and if the guitars were made cleaner, the lyrics were changed to some boy-loses-girl malarkey (and if they weren’t delivered in Blake Judd’s tortured, gravelly rasp) you would have Snow Patrol’s next hit single. But much like the title track off Assassins, “Nightfall” is catchy without being twee. It is the same with “No Funeral”, where the instantly memorable, ironically happy, organ riff (that will probably be what turns off a lot of the aforementioned “true” black metal fans) carries the song through a rather sick and twisted lyrical journey. Again, it is the vocals that keep things together in these songs and retain a black metal aesthetic.
While on the topic of the standout tracks, “Addicts” is another instantly catchy, sing-along track that features some very distinctive vocal work from Judd. The throaty, yet “clean” chorus vocals soar above the melody and really make the riff stand out, not only from the other parts of the song, but from the whole album. Everything about “Addicts” makes it a big song, from the chorus to the strained whine of the guitar licks – it is an instant crowd pleaser and makes the album a unique experience.
The album moves into more psychadelic territory in the second half. Synthesizers bulk up the guitar riffs and give a general feeling of sickness the tracks. “Blood Trance Fusion” moves from riffage that would not sound wrong on an early Mayhem album into what I can only hear as a tribute to Venom’s iconic “Black Metal”. Fast, frantic riffs and sharply barked vocals only serve to heighten a feeling of unease and paranoia. Nachtmystium know how to work dynamics in a song, and in the case of Addicts, said dynamics create an image of a desperate junkie, strung out and alone in some dismal, ill lit room. From the plaintive cries in “Then Fires” to the crooked resignation in “Every Last Drop”, the feeling is one of panic and crushing darkness.
Nachtmystium have outdone themselves with Addicts; pushing the boundaries of what can be called “black metal” yet still remaining true to the core aesthetics of the genre. This is sick, dirty and honest music that paints a vivid and disturbing picture with each guitar chord, drum beat and evil shriek! It is not very often that an experimental black metal record is so consistent – all I can say is: Black Meddle ist krieg!