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Addicts: Black Meddle II

Nachtmystium

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Album Review

Who says playing it safe is the only way to make it in the music business? At least for American black metal institution Nachtmystium, widespread recognition has coincided precisely with their increased creative risk-taking — even as the dreaded (and largely unwarranted) cries of "sell-out" echoed amongst the more intransigent element of their fan base. Here's a group that was at first merely praised for competently copying the dominant Norsk black metal hallmarks (instead of embarrassing themselves like most American pretenders of the time), before revealing the first signs of greater imagination via 2006's lo-fi, pulp-prog, eye-opener Instinct: Decay. But it wasn't until the release of 2008's Assassins: Black Meddle, Pt. I that Nachtmystium finally enjoyed a true commercial breakthrough, when bandleader, Blake "Azentrius" Judd, began channeling some striking psychedelic and art rock influences into his band's lingering black metal foundations (primarily from Pink Floyd, not unlike Norway's Enslaved). In other words, Judd's master stroke essentially consisted of injecting fresh ideas from other musical genres into the saturated black metal templates, and there's no letup to this strategy on Assassins' 2010 successor, Addicts: Black Meddle, Pt. II. Here, along with returning psych rock elements (see "No Funeral," "Then Fires," etc.), minor electronic nuances ("Blood Trance Fusion"), and even Middle-Eastern wails (haunting the doom-like march of "Every Last Drop"), the most stunning alien musical organism infecting the host is…new wave? That's right, although the bulk of Nachtmystium's lyrics still profess their allegiance to the dark side, and standard black metal hallmarks like Judd's raspy croak, buzzsaw riffs, blastbeats, and disorienting waves of guitar distortion continue to abound (e.g. "High on Hate," "The End Is Eternal"), there's no disguising the realization that a track like "Ruined Life Continuum" would sound perfectly at home on an album by the Cure if shorn of its necro-metallic camouflage. There are also undeniable mainstream rock & roll undercurrents — not just "black & roll," real rock & roll — buttressing songs like "Nightfall" and the title track (observe its emotionally melodic solo — not exactly grim!) — and all of it works magnificently well, it must be said. These qualities help certify Addicts as another unmitigated triumph for Nachtmystium, arguably even superior to its wildly acclaimed predecessors, thanks to its collective daring, unprecedented stylistic variety, and, well, big balls!

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Although he's employed a number of sidemen over the years, Nachtmystium is essentially the work of Chicago native Azentrius, who began recording demos in 1998 and continues to unleash regular examples of raw, misanthropic, Scandinavian-style black metal (think Darkthrone, early Mayhem, Satyricon, etc.)...
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Addicts: Black Meddle II, Nachtmystium
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