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Nachtmystium began as yet another generic band that owed its existence to the likes of Darkthrone, Burzum and Mütiilation. The music was fairly bland, with a few decent ideas tossed in, though hardly original. Blake Judd, the driving force behind this project, was just another fanboy that wanted to try his hand at recreating the past, in his own mediocre way. He also likes to re-write history, in that the Reign of the Malicious demo was later claimed to be the band's first official album, though when I first spoke to the guy he mentioned it as a demo and actually said the same about Demise, which was released through Autopsy Kitchen Records in early 2004. For the sake of argument, I will consider this Nachtmystium's debut L.P. For what it is, this is not a bad record. It was later released with different artwork, but the Burum rip-off job that is featured on the original suits the music far better.
The album begins with a pointless intro that does absolutely nothing to add to the atmosphere of the album. Thankfully, one can skip past it to the first real track, "Solitary Voyage". This one is a mid-paced song that possesses a mournful and tormented feeling. The main theme features a miserable tremolo melody with open chords being played underneath. It is quite primitive and one gets the impression that the musicians do not have the strongest grasp of how to wield their instruments, but the effort is there. The raw and fuzzy guitar riffs dominate the sound, with the vocals being buried in the mix a bit and the drums at a somewhat decent level. The production is reminiscent of Filosofem, from Burzum, just not quite as good. As the song progresses, it takes on an epic vibe and gives the listener some optimism for the rest of the L.P. Sadly, this is about as good as it gets.
"Scorpio Incarnate" is a faster-paced track that is built around blast beats and fast tremolo riffs. Obviously, this displays some influences from Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger album. By the middle of the song, things slow down and the aura transforms into something more evocative of Burzum. Much like Judas Iscariot, Nachtmystium owes a lot to those two bands, though the drug addict, Blake, manages to do a better job of imitating them.
The next song, "Ashes to Ashes", is a little monotonous and only really comes to life as a sorrowful melody is introduced late in the song, playing over the main theme. This maintains the same melancholic atmosphere as before, though it falls rather flat and does not do much. It just crawls along, accomplishing little.
"The Glorious Moment" is a boring track that seems like a mixture of random ideas that were borrowed from other bands and then tossed together to kill about five minutes. The final couple minutes show more life, but the generic nature of the riffs cannot be ignored. The vocals might have added to the overall effect, but they are too low in the mix to have much influence.
The last real song on here is "Rise and Fall", which creeps at a slow pace. There are some effects, such as demonic voices in the background that do little to help the track. This comes off as nothing more than the obligatory 'lengthy song' just to fill space, as there is nothing going on in these ten minutes that could not have been accomplished in four or five. An interesting melody arrives near the very end, which actually possesses more feeling than the rest of the riffs, combined.
The outro is nothing more than eight and a half minutes of senseless noise that has nothing to do with the vibe of the album and is likely only there to pad the running time. Without the intro and outro, this release is barely more than half an hour.
Demise is not a bad record, for those that are interested in hearing modern Black Metal that is purely derivative of earlier bands, with almost no unique input whatsoever. It starts out a lot stronger than it ends, so you may find yourself only listening to the first two tracks before getting bored and moving on to something else. Chances are, if the guy had not given me a copy for free (to play on my radio show), I would not have bothered adding this to my collection and I would not recommend anyone else to do so, either. The American Black Metal scene has always been pretty lame and average at best, and Nachtmystium is no different.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
What a refreshing album; this is, hands down, one of the best USBM albums to date. Forget the New Wave of SFBM, forget modern dissonance trendies, forget conformity - this album is what Black Metal is, should always, and in its ideals, has always been about. Pure black emotion (or the denial of it) and the invocation of darkness with no regrets. Say what you will about the unstable USBM scene, but aficionados and novices alike cannot dispute the sincerity and quality of this work.
This album contains some very introspective songwriting. Without expulsing torrents of rage, without waging auditory or lyrical/ideological war, "Demise" passively brings sorrow into its own definable dimensions. With each guitar passage, the melodic structures drone on in heavy sadness, leaving the thick, entrancing atmosphere to waft into your senses. There are not many riffs per song (anywhere from roughly 4-8), but the lack of quantity, in this case, is made up for by the quality. Fortunately, the album's atmosphere only requires a few good riffs to juxtapose the humbly epic melodies together; there are both obvious bass lines as well as the essential guitar lines.
The real crowning glory in the riffs is the minimalism. Yes, yes, "minimalism is generally a qualifying factor..." That may be true; however, "Demise" is a more unique BM album. The minimalism does not define the album (I.E. - Many albums of the Darkthrone trinity [ABitNS, UaFM, TH] variety purport to be minimalist because it is definitive of the style, and it is how they are self- and mass-identified), instead the album defines minimalism in its own terms. The minimalism works for the individual song and the album simultaneously. When a riff first establishes repetition solely in the guitar, the rest of the instruments collectively follow suit, eventually. One assumes that all the instruments working together would create the minimalism all at once (at least to perception), though this is not the case with "Demise." This album self-defines minimalism because the guitar overpowers the other instruments (not a bad thing, mind you), thus delaying the listener's recognition of a full instrumental minimalist scope on the album or individual song. So, in short, because of this delay, there are two separate textures of minimalist sound, the first wave (guitar) and the second (everything else). In this way the album fails to be entirely conformist, and in fact, is a dissent from popular USBM songwriting and formulaic tendencies, as it reverts back to more primitive musical values.
The vocals are a great bonus to this package. Azentrius really delivers here; they are filled with honest pain, and are not weak in any manner (though a bit buried in the mix). Of course the fact that they are steeped in reverb helps. And what makes them even better is the fact that they are used sparingly. With a release as melancholic as it is atmospheric, the use of pain-stricken screeches in the key places is essential, especially to deliver emotional value. An overuse of vocals would have surely dropped the immediate and lasting appeal of this release, but fortunately the artists were sagacious.
Last is the production. My, my, my, talk about a deal sealer. The production is primitive, as should be expected. But it aids this release so much; I think the album would fail if it was produced any differently. Sickening fuzz cuts through the mass of sound and perverts it into primitivism. The production, coming in a close second to the guitar, instigates the exhibition of emotion on this album. Without the low mixed drums, without a half-flat, half-full bass, the reverb heavy vocals, and most of all, without the divine, ever-present fuzz, there would be no "Demise."
To all those who shun USBM, try this on for size first. Granted mediocrity creeps into every corner of the USBM scene, self-worship and derision plague its integrity, but Nachtmystium's "Demise" is free from these impurities, and is worthy of any BM fanatic. Listen to it, collapse into it, wallow in it, and absorb it all, because I guarantee that it will do itself justice.
The American black metal scene is flourishing and has been for some years now. Although there is a selection of black metal fans who see Europe as the true dominant force behind black metal, there are a number of notable American acts basking in all their glory having completed successful tours, having released successful records. Acts such as Judas Iscariot, Leviathan and Xasthur have dominated since the mid-1990’s, spilling their individual pieces of material forth from the depths of hell. Nachtmystium certainly held their own during their short lived black metal career despite the fact that they were amongst some star-studded line-ups, both from yesteryear and present day. With ties to bands like Cult Of Daath, Krieg (whom I personally despise) and Twilight, one would understand if the expectations were incredibly high when one first gets their hands on ‘Demise‘, Nachtmystium's second full-length and best full-length in my opinion to date. This was actually my introduction to the band and what an introduction it is.
There are those who may consider this a fairly typical black metal record and to some degree, I concur with those thoughts. This record, ’Demise’, is the epitome of helvete. The surroundings of the songs on this record, particularly ‘Solitary Voyage’ and ‘Scorpio Incarnate’, are bleak, cold and distant, just like that of the second wave of black metal outfits who generated much of the influential material which the bands of today still base their sounds around. Songs like the aforementioned two aptly display the brilliance behind the early Nachtmystium sound. The tremolo picking, the double bass blasts and the rasping vocal assault with it’s relentless depiction of the lyrics themes are what black metal stood for back in the day. The difference, to me, between the material present here and what we would have experienced years before it is, this is much more explosive. Black metal was often a very limited sound, which was presumably in order for bands to stay ‘true’ to their roots. Evolution is and should be expected. This is where ‘Demise’ comes in. This is a fine example of how black metal evolved when this record first came out. Nachtmystium are prepared to introduce the listener to a harrowing soundscape journey through utter bleakness and the odd depressive atmosphere that is likely to drive any black metal fan into hysteria.
At times this record can be slow and transcending, which is when the emotive aspects that deal with sadness and such are best portrayed and at other times it can be played at a mid-fast tempo, which is when the old school aggression factor takes hold. It can be highly repetitive, what with tremolo riffs and widespread blast beast but that doesn‘t detract from the passionate atmosphere Nachtmystium create. The vocals are typically raw. Whilst they do not consist of anything most of us haven‘t already heard before, black metal rasps, to me, were always meant to act as an instrument. The idea behind the vocals is that they‘re meant to draw on the emotional elements that the music, particularly guitars, already begin to show. This can often enhance the performance of the soundscapes, which it does. This is a largely venomous and intriguing mixture of many bands, from Judas Iscariot to early Darkthrone. What is key to making Nachtmystium slightly different from the rest is the awe inspiring and intoxicating melody that is often at the foreground of proceedings due to the influential guitars. Whilst the buzzing distortion gives the impression that the production is meant to be of a dark nature, the instrumentation is accessible to the listener. The mood of this piece often shifts, due to the changes in tempo. One moment it will be insanely aggressive, with an intensity that intimidates and the next it will be melancholic and mournful. Often relentless and oddly hypnotising with it’s distinctive rhythmic patterns. Distorted and chaotic in it’s production. This is sure to become a classic within the USBM scene, if not the black metal scene in general in years to come. Highlights include; Solitary Voyage, Scorpio Incarnate and Rise And Fall.