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Nachtmystium - Assassins - 95%

Final_Judgement, June 11th, 2008

I was going to try to come up with a witty review title, but any pun I can come up with is going to be overshadowed by the horrible yet suitable pun in the album's title. Indeed, this album is very much a combination of black metal and Pink Floyd's "Meddle" album.

Now, I'm not a black metal fan, nor am I a Pink Floyd fan, but the combination of the styles here comes out sounding phenomenal, to say the least. Although the psychadelic elements will probably turn off many listeners, I found they added some much needed depth to what I generally consider a very shallow and stale genre.

So, let's start on the backing instrumentation then. If you are looking for killer riffs and face-melting solos, take your search elsewhere (although the opening riff to "Ghosts of Grace" and the solo in "Your True Enemy" will probably satisfy, they are rare occurrences on the album). The guitar is generally mixed towards the back of the tracks, with an emphasis on rhythm playing and atmosphere (think black metal guitarwork). The bass is a bit higher in the mix, and gives the album a very progressive sounding bass edge through. However, most of the backing instrumentation has a focus on psychadelic samples and other atmospheric components (keyboard, piano, etc.). The aforementioned opening melody and the inclusion of odd instruments like saxophones (most prominent on "Seasick Part II: Oceanborne") help keep the overall music entertaining. You'll have to listen to the album multiple times to truly take everything in, as there is a lot going on in the background.

Moving on to the drumming on the album, one will notice that all the drumming on the album was handled by Tony Laureano, which means you're either going to love it or hate it. I have seen the drumming described as being "pop-sensible", and I don't particularly disagree with the label. Some typical black metal elements are stil present, like some blastbeating in the track "Assassins", but most of the focus seems to be on interesting fills and progressive beats. The drums are mixed quite high, which seems to deter some Laureano-haters, but I find that they are not only highly entertaining, but also quite impressive (which is quite a rare feat in modern metal).

The last element of the music here is the vocals, an instrument that only appears on about half of the tracks. When they do pop up, they are heavily effected, very loud, and extremely catchy. The rhythms and melodies used here definitely have a lot of mainstream appeal, probably due to the obvious homage being paid to Pink Floyd. Not to say that they aren't still typical Nachtmystium tones though; I find that the vocals here have improved a lot since the band's last full length album. Some great vocal experiments such as whispering the entirety of "Code Negative" really pay off and contribute a lot to the overall atmosphere.

Overall, what we have here is a very unique and catchy piece of black metal. Despite the lack of vocals on a lot of tracks, the album never failed to hold my undivided attention the first time through. It is quite rare that I can dedicate 100% of my focus to an album and feel rewarded, but this album definitely earned that distinction. 10 plays later and I'm still almost completely engrossed in it. The bottom line: you need to hear this album!

Standout tracks/moments: "Ghosts of Grace", "Seasick Part II: Oceanborne", and the lengthy solo section in "Code Negative" that takes the song into a perfect ending sample.