Black metal is a genre built on aesthetics. Lo-fi production, tremolo guitar picking, blast-beat drumming, shrieked vocals that sound like an orc being tortured, and definitely some corpse paint. The genres early purveyorsBurzum, Mayhem, and Darkthronehailed from the cold countryside of Norway and set the standard for black metal in the early 90s. Misanthropic outcasts, these individuals channeled their pagan ideals and perpetual angst through their amplifiers.
The genre is derided for an over-reliance on those aforementioned aesthetics and a lack of unique musical ideas. Saddled with this criticism (or pre-conceived notion, rather), contemporary acts like Chicagos Nachtmystium must sound evil and distinct. Otherwise, whats the point? Finnish and Norwegians artists have put out so much black metal that the genres nearly been exhausted. But Nachtmystium stay relevant on Silencing Machine by combining American-thrash influences with traditional black metal traits.
Opener Dawn Over the Ruins of Jerusalem strikes hard and fast, hurling layers of guitar feedback while frontman Blake Judd screams from the depths. Slowly, the multitudes of chords lock together to form a satisfying groove at the songs climax. And thats what Nachtmystium does so well; their songs start chaotically, but theres always direction and momentum and a devil-horns-to-the-sky groove waiting to be head-banged tothe black-metal equivalent of a hook.
Lyrically, when Judd isnt spelling out certain doom, he looks inward. Trapped inside myself with nowhere to hide, he repeats during The Lepers of Destitution, the albums eight-minute centerpiece. And he really sounds lost, pleading with terror in his voice. Following track Borrowing Hope and Broken Dreams mulls over equally downbeat subject matter, but its the albums most accessible rocker, complete with a verse-chorus-verse structure and Southern-sludge riffing.
One moment youre getting the shit scared out of you, the next youre playing air guitar and bobbing to the beat. Thats Nachtmystium, and Silencing Machine is arguably their strongest LP yet. As a listener, even if your world isnt as bleak as Judds, the music is still affecting emotionally (when its terrifying) and physically (when it rocks). And thats what successful art doesit affects.
Essential Tracks: Dawn Over the Ruins of Jerusalem, Borrowing Hope and Broken Dreams