Nachtmystium - Instinct: Decay (Battle Kommand CD)

Nachtmystium have been dropping hints in recent days that they're not like the other black metal bands, especially not their USBM co-conspirators Leviathan, Xasthur, Draugaur et al (although Nachtmystium mainman Judd did moonlight in Twilight, the USBM supergroup featuring those musicians and more). For two obvious examples, they play live and they don't wear corpsepaint. For all intents and purposes they just look like...a bunch of dudes playing music. But there was something more to them, and I think I started to pick up on that when a live Earth cover ("Charioteer") was included as a bonus track on the Southern Lord version of their 2004 release "Eulogy IV". So it shouldn't really come as a surprise to me or anyone else that their new full-length "Instinct: Decay" is shaking the boundary lines just a little bit harder as the band has grown more comfortable in its own skin.
What I'm talking about, of course, is the rise of psychedelic black metal. You knew it was coming - every other week if you glance at the Aquarius Records' albums of the week you'll find black metal mingling with other genres. So why not try pairing it up with the good stuff? Not to say this album is full-on psych, the same way the last Darkthrone album wasn't full-on punk. But it's definitely there - I can smell it. Or maybe that's all the hash and pot the band used to record the guitar solos (according to a recent Decibel interview with Judd). Whatever was in the pipes, keep passing it around because the results are highly diggable.
After the brief opener and "A Seed for Suffering" begins, you'll know what I'm talking about. A 7-minute romper stomper that begins in a manner which does recall Xasthur's recent output - slightly hazy and muddled production, disparate skin-pounding and furiously blazerin' guitars. But three minutes in all this gives way to a rather lovely Comus-esque acoustic interlude...then the solo hits, and set the controls for the cold black heart of the sun, baby. It's such a jarring thing to throw down in a black metal tune that I know people were turned off by it right away - "it's too 80's, it sounds like a synth instead of a guitar". Yeah...and??? Only a purist could not be bowled over by the sheer brashness of this guitar-work. Talk about a shot in the arm to the genre!
"Keep Them Open" wastes no time in getting down to business, a galloping BM anthem if there ever was one, replete with those signature wild-ass solos like David Gilmour on "Comfortably Numb" sped up tenfold. They're not going away, and I couldn't be happier. Next is the album highlight in my humblest of opinions, "Chosen By No One". It's slow - bordering on rock and roll, if it wasn't so obviously drenched in the lake of black metal. The structure on this one is almost poppy at times, and that's a compliment I'll have you know. "The Antichrist Messiah" is another quantum leap - imagine a hearse careening of a cliff and landing into the NWOBHM briar patch. Or "Here's to Hoping", a bizarre, punk/new wave-influenced ditty with lyrics like "I want to be the hands around your throat". It has to be heard to be believed.
And that's the game Nachtmystium like to play. They do these Bathory/Emperor/Mayhem-influenced numbers (nothing new in the realm of black metal), but then put their own innovative twist all over the thing and truly make it their own. Whether it's on the experimental jams ("A Seed for Suffering", "Chosen by No One", "Here's to Hoping") or the most straight-forward BM-sounding ones of the lot ("Keep Them Open", "Eternal Ground", "Abstract Nihilism"), it's the perfect marriage the agony and the ecstacy.
Black metal has long had a droning aspect to it. Greg Anderson of Sunn O))) once said the reason he got into black metal in the first place was because of the hypnotic, droning atmosphere conjured up by Burzum (specifically "Filosofem" I believe). But this may be the most perfectly spaced-out, hallucinatory black metal album ever. Now, speaking of Burzum, how long until we get that drawn-out 60-minute "Dunkelheit" cover I've been dreaming about? Let's see how far we can run with this whole psych thing.


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