NACHTMYSTIUM – Silencing Machine
Nachtmystium is back. Not that they ever went anywhere. They’ve have since their early days in 1999 always been diving into the darker neighbourhoods of metal and they have put out an impressive number of releases since then. The result is a back catalogue that has pushed the boundaries of the black metal / blackened metal genre, and Nachtmystium always tends to induce all but neutral responses from fans and reviewers.
Either people insist that these guys are the real deal and definitely belongs to the black metal movement, or they claim that is far from black metal in any definition of the musical definition.
Genre-definition-jerk-off put aside – the musical legacy of Nachtmystium is hard to ignore when enjoying metal music from the last 10 years or so. The early albums (Reign of the Malicious, 2002; Demise, 2004; Instinct Decay, 2006) are fast and vicious, and certainly provided some sinister perspectives on the world. These albums could hardly be understood anything else than black metal, I mean, they even threw inn a Burzum cover on the Reign (…) album, goddammit!
By 2006, Nachtmystium had evolved both production and scope of the music, as most band did in did period. I find it mostly convenient, not factual, to blow this band off on the basis of an ever more tiresome and boring ‘black metal/not black metal’ discourse. Given the songs and the albums, these guys are driving metal forward and have done so for a long time.
The will to pursue ideas outside genres really became evident with Black Meddle pt.I & pt.II albums (2008 & 2010). Here, the melodic song elements from previous albums were taken to their logical conclusions in terms of including prog elements and catchy songs structures and a wider range of instruments.
I gladly throw hails and horns in the air in respect to Nachtmystium for going all the way on this – as the fan base and hordes of self-crowned Internet Musical Gurus (IMG’s) grinned their ugly faces and whined about this not being metal, what ever the fuck that means. Many other bands explored the same musical landscapes with significant less success, so I not quite sure that the majority of sour comments made back then is that substantial now.
So, when I say that Nachtmystium is back, it refers to the fact that the band says that they’re going back to the Instant Decay era. They are going back to the ‘old forms’, which is an interesting wording of it, as many bands are looking back to emulate and reproduce the chaos from 15-20 years ago – a strategy that must be the fastest route to #epic fail in current metal music state of affairs. ‘The old forms’, on the other hand, might hold the promise of evolving the genre by building on the common heritage of this type of metal.
The upcoming album is therefore a very exciting release. The album definitely has some raw and blasting bangers that really thrive on the blackened metal. The opening track ‘Dawn Over the Ruins of Jerusalem’ whirls up the sweet and dear atmospheric flow of blasting black metal, with lingering guitars ripping high notes against the massive tsunami of sound. The breaks and detours into mid-tempo riffs with straightforward catchy riffs create the variation needed. The drums are more atmospheric less than being a structuring element – they create flow, not marking partitions within the songs. However, Nachtmystium still do hovering melody lines across and atop the basic blasts and riffs, either by guitars or synth modulators.
The title track, ‘Silencing Machine’ is more saturated with synthetics. The effects and modulators are more accentuated in songs. This is a type of album that will need quite a few runs in order for the listener to really get all the details and stuff going on. Personally, I think of that as an asset. You’re not getting to second or third base on the first date with this one.
I guess that the Black Meddle detour has not left Nachtmystium unchanged, they still have a distinct progressive and explorative character in their and they still indulge tolls outside the standard set of bass, guitar, drums, and screams. A couple of songs into the album the songs take on a somewhat different direction by slowing down and pick up some of the ideas from the Black Meddle era. Here, longer and more elaborated song elements are dominant, and it builds up a whole different momentum.
If one take the perspective that metal is about emotional expression, most metal radiates feelings such as aggression, hate, power, triumphing, and so forth. But metal is also about emotional characters not centred on expressing superior power, but also stuff like sorrow, loss, fear, cowardice, regression, and to yield.
‘Silencing Machine’ stretches across the full range of these opposites with songs like ‘The Lepers of Destitution’ being big majestic anthems with this narrative and dreamy feel to it. The closing song ‘The Rooms In Which We Sleep’ is also in this lane. They are both certain to make hordes of emo-goth girls fiddle with their pocket knifes to cut shallow wounds in their arms, as well as drunken death metallers to shed a tear or two after a boozed-out sexless after party.
The songs in question offers a taste of funeral doom / pagan escapism of acts such as Wolves In the Throne Room, Isis, or even Altaar or Nortt – but not equally depressive and sincerely fucked-up. Kinda like a suicidal depression softened with a catchy hook and nice production, if you know what I mean.
The key argument will be whether fans and Internet-anonymous self-acclaimed experts will call this a majestic anthem or just a pile of whipped cream a top of plain rock songs. I will not be the judge of that here, but for my part, I argue the songs are rock solid and do have an actual majestic feel that makes me wanna wander over mountains in arctic blizzards to die in the freezing cold half-way.
Wanker, you might reply, but the songs are epic.
Further, some of the songs are surprisingly catchy and within reach of the classical pop song format. I could almost recall the beautiful emptiness of The Cure in songs like Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams.
Nachtmystium still operates at the far ends of a strict interpretation of metal music by bending the formula of what a metal song consist of. Further, The production is very skilful as it balances the various sounds and effects, and they certainly have maintained song structure that would be very cool to hear in a concert.
I got the chance to talk to mainman Judd Blake (Guitar, vocals) to hear his thoughts on the upcoming album and state of affairs.
First, thanks for taking the time for this interview. Busy days with a new album soon out and just off your recent European tour?
Hello! Yeah, it’s been a busy year thus far. We recorded the new record in January / February, played the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, TX in March (5 shows in 4 days!) and then we did a headlining tour of mainland western Europe in April. Have had a little time off leading up to the record release here on July 31st. We have a few shows lined up just before the record is released and then a big release show planned for Chicago on July 31st.
The new album ‘Silencing Machine’ is out late July. Reading interviews and comments from the band, it seems that this album represents a return to old forms, a rawer and ‘moodier’ type of metal. Your headed back to the atmosphere of Instant Decay, right, after the experimental Black Meddle albums? What can we expect from the new material?
Yes, exactly. The "Black Meddle" series were an intentional experiment with outside influences. "Silencing Machine" is more about our black metal roots and rexploring those styles upon which this band was founded. This album is very ferocious and often times quite brutal. Especially when compared to the last two records. So, we’re very pleased to be back doing what I feel we do best, which is some kind of hybrid of black metal. We’ve included some industrial influences into this record, but they’re not over bearing by any means. More found in textures within the songs. Different types of synthesizers were used on this record than we’ve used in the past, so there’s a lot of new things happening on this record over the foundation which was laid in the old spirit of black metal.
The sound and tone is crucial in metal, and especially the format that Nachtmystium operates within. What are the key elements in creating that raw and edgy sound? Were there any challenges in the production?
I think this question would be better directed at our synth player / engineer, Sanford Parker. From what I saw though, he didn’t seem to have many hurdles getting the sounds he wanted. Sanford is very good at what he does, so he knows exactly how to get the sounds he wants out of the gear he has provided for himself at the studios he works in. We used a lot of modular synthesizers on this album, that’s one of the new toys we brought into the mix this time. It was cool working with those old school synths, you can do a lot of really neat stuff with them.
What are your most valued guitar pedals? Any favorite instruments for this album? Or do you use standard equipment when recording?
I use the same guitar I tour with, which is my BC Rich Mockingbird. It’s a neck-thru "Special" series, I got it about six years ago. Really love it, its’ an excellent and very solid instrument that replaced my Gibson SG that I played for years prior to switching to this instrument. As for effects pedals, I like to keep it simple…I use a tuner and a delay pedal, that’s it. some of the other guys have more FX running than i do, but I don’t find myself needing more than what I’ve got. This keeps problems on stage to a minimum too…the more stuff you have, the more opportunities arise for things to go wrong.
Now the lyrics: Is there any lyrical topic or theme in the new album?
No, this album is not a concept record like the last two were. This album deals with a range of topics ranging from religion to personal struggles to society as a whole. There’s a lot of stuff explored in the lyrics to these songs.
Its kinda hard to actually hear the words in metal songs, and listeners often struggle to get into the lyrics. Given that the whole industry is going digital with streaming and stuff like that, what are your thoughts on the importance of lyrics?
I’ve always tried my best to sing coherently, so people can understand what I’m saying. I’ve been told I do a pretty decent job of it, too. I like to let the listener figure out what the lyrics are and what they mean to them.
Nachtmystium was formed somewhere around 1999. If you go back to the time back then, what got you into metal in the first place? Was there any specific album or song? A concert? Or just through a social context?
I was always attracted to heavy music. When I was real young, it was Led Zeppelin, then when I was 7-8 years old it became Guns N Roses and Metallica, and eventually in my teenage years I discovered Slayer, Sepultura, etc. eventually leading me to black metal. I think the record that really grabbed me most was the first black metal record I ever heard, which was Emperor / Enslaved split CD on Candlelight Records. This was my introduction to extreme metal as a whole, and now I’m here, so it obviously had a big impact on me and is still one of my favorite black metal releases to this day.
Now, 10+ years on and considering your initial reasons for starting out with metal – what’s left of that today? How do you generate the energy to do this type of music and lifestyle?
It’s not as easy as it used to be, I’ll tell you that much!! haha, life gets harder and harder as you get older in a lot of ways, there’s more responsibility, your body doesn’t take beatings as well as it used to (like 6 week tours for example haha), things like this. But, I wouldn’t trade in what I do for anything in the world. I love this stuff and it’s always been my calling in life I feel to be a musician and a live performer, so I’m very happy and feel very lucky to have the opportunities I’ve had in my life.
What other bands have impressed you guys in 2012? Who should we look out for in the time to come? Newcomers and surfacing talent?
Couldn’t tell ya, I don’t listen to much new music these days. I can tell you that your fellow countrymen, SHINING, really blew me away at South By Southwest, and then VIRUS did the same at Roadburn, so Norway is definitely still on the cutting edge for me as far as interesting new music is concerned. Of course, I still love Enslaved as well…their new stuff is brilliant. So, those are three bands I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on in the next year or two.
Final words or additional comments?
Thanks for the interview and thanks to anyone in Norway who’s reading this that has come out to see us when we’ve played in your country at Hole in the Sky, Oyafestavalen and Inferno festivals. We really love it in Norway and hope to come back to see you guys soon!
The album ‘Silencing Machine’ from Nachtmystium is out on July 31st on Century Media.