(In this review, BadWolf provides his take on the new album by Chicago’s Nachtmystium.)
What does it mean when Nachtmystium, a band whose success has sprung from breaking convention, releases a return-to-form? Silencing Machine, portentous title and all, disposes of the psychedelic and dance-rock elements of its predecessors, as well as much of frontman Blake Judd’s morbid introspection. Rather, its constant aggression and meditation on worldly issues recalls more of classic Metallica and Marduk than, say, Marillion.
I will say first that Nachtmystium mean a great deal to me personally—Black Meddle‘s One (Assassins) and Two (Addicts) both saw me through great personal tumult — and second, that my favorite thing about Blake Judd and his band of crusty ne’er-do-wells is their ability to take one sound per record and twist it into several unique permutations. A good psychedelic album takes you someplace—a good Nachtmystium album takes you several places.
So when I first heard Silencing Machine, I found it toothless. Most of the songs on Silencing Machine follow the general formula of Assassins’ title track: black metal intro, transition to groove section, optional return to black metal section, end. Nothing stuck with me besides the big, juicy chorus on the title track. For the first time, Nachtmystium bored me, and I anticipate it will bore many on first listen.
I urge you to listen several times—Blake Judd writes albums that take some digging to sink in. Silencing Machine proved a compelling ride when I gave it the opportunity. This year Nachtmystium took their lessons in atmosphere and rhythm from the previous two albums and applied them to an aggro black metal template.
Silencing Machine is a series of light touches. Sanford Parker’s keyboard accents give every song a wet sheen: If the metallic elements take the listener on a roller coaster ride, then the synthesizers simulate air rushing past one’s ears. Moments of beauty offset the abrasive gloom, such as the Cascadian-style crescendos in the middle of “Lepers of Destitution.” Other times the additions pull the song in a darker direction, like muffled screams in “I Wait in Hell.”
The band tracked Silencing Machine perfectly, following up the most intense songs with breaks in pace. “Decimation, Annihilation” rides a bouncing dance beat in the style of Addicts, right after the emotional nadir of “I Wait In Hell.” Meanwhile, “And I Control You” plunges into melody-soaked doom metal right after the fever-pitch title track. (Did you catch the Nine Inch Nails reference in the track listing? I hope you did.)
And like every other Nachtmystium record, Silencing Machine ends with a bang. The last three songs, when taken together, conjoin into an emotionally crushing third act. “These Rooms In Which We Weep” finds Nachtmystium as restrained as they sounded on their old “Death in June” cover—delicate chimes offset churning murk of Deathspell Omega proportions.
Judd and company can count this as their fourth triumph in a row, in my book, but I cannot predict how it will serve them. Nachtmystium, more than almost any other American BM band, have the hooks and chops to reach wide audiences, and Blake Judd finally has the stable lineup with which to do so. Still, Silencing Machine is a difficult—though highly rewarding—listen. Judd and his boys intend on making Nachtmystium historic—and they will do so on their own terms, hopefully with a string of work this enjoyable.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Silencing Machine was released earlier this week by Century Media, and at this writing the entire album is still streaming at the Spin magazine web site (here). Nachtmystium’s Facebook page can be accessed via this link. And here are three previously released songs from the album: