Retrospective: Nachtmystium – “Assassins: Black Meddle, Part I”

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Alright, so Nachtmystium might have had a few tough years, which I will be getting into later. But in their day, they cranked out some the best psychedelic black metal the world had to offer. At this point, I’ve heard it all. From Reign of the Malicious all the way through the finality of 2014’s The World We Left Behind, there are albums that will be remembered for some time. One of the most definitive albums in this list, however, was Assassins: Black Meddle, Part I.

2008’s Assassins was the fourth album in Nachtmystium’s career and the first of a two-part “Black Meddle” series that aimed to push the boundaries of what the Blake Judd-led group considered ‘black metal’. I’ll cover the second installment on a later date, but the focus today is strictly on Assassins. If the goal of this album was to depart the confines of traditional black metal, it certainly did that with authority.

Before ever pressing play, the album name should be familiar. Meddle, of course, was a notable album in the Pink Floyd discography. By referencing a band as progressive and experimental as Floyd was, Nachtmystium make their intentions very clear. And once you finally do press play, you release that “One of These Nights” is a direct tribute to Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days off the aforementioned Meddle, which is appreciated, if not a bit ridiculous. But the psychedelic influences on this album certainly are the backbone to the record. And they come through in full force on the instrumental interlude that is “Away From Light” and the methodically paced mind-bender that is “Code Negative”. Don’t get me wrong, these tracks hold the same darkness that has defined Nachtmystium, but now there is more emphasis on drawn-out guitar leads and creating an eerier environment. I will say that as much as the stylistic tributes to Pink Floyd are appreciated, there are certainly solos and interludes that sound a bit forced, especially within the closing “Seasick” tracks (“Part I: Drowned at Dusk”, “Part II: Oceanborne”, and “Part III: Silent Sunrise”). These moments are few and far between, but they stand out when they’re there.

The best thing about Assassins, however, is that Nachtmystium’s form of black metal is never actually lost. The raw hatred and aggression on “Omnivore” and “Your True Enemy” are enough to destroy virtually any form of positivity. And that’s what makes these songs and albums so great, it is extremely easy for an audience to get on the same page as Blake and his echoing barks of ferocity. Hell, taking things in another direction, the title-track is a consistent barrage of swaying leads and chants that becomes very easy to growl along with before coming to a complete halt for five minutes of atmospheric build. The subsequent “Ghosts of Grace” has the same effect but with a bit more consistency through a very pronounced (and catchy) lead riff that easily pulls a listener in. I mean, the whole thing rounds out with the three-part “Seasick” which listens as a single  12-minute track that covers everything the album has done and then some, with the use of saxophones on “Oceanborne” and a variable display of solos and tempos. Basically, this album does a shit ton. And it’s awesome.

Yes, we all know about the unfortunate ending of Nachtmystium, we’ve covered it here many times and in full detail. But rather than getting into the questionable habits and business practices of the band and it’s members, sometimes it’s just better to appreciate what they did in their time. Nachtmystium, once they gained their momentum, were never a band to stick to traditional genre constructs, and for that they deserve a ton of credit. And the quintessential album that kicked that trend off was Assassins: Black Meddle, Part I. Enjoy.

“Ein Bier… bitte.”
– Corey

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