Over the past several years, Chicago black metallers Nachtmystium have made a career out of throwing musical curveballs. It all started with the USBM acid trip that was 2006’s Instinct: Decay, followed by 2008’s Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1, a blackened psych rock odyssey with hints of punk, and finally culminating in the disco-damaged cocaine rodeo of 2010’s Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. 2. They are among the most wildly unpredictable bands in the scene, and although their experimentation occasionally falls a little short of the mark, it is always made up for by the sheer enthusiasm they exude while fucking with the black metal program; one can easily imagine Nachtmystium’s instruments being powered by the tears of tr00 kvlt internet message board warriors.
Admittedly, a big part of me was hoping that Nachtmystium would serve up an entire album of “No Funeral”-style club-bangers for their latest album Silencing Machine, but given the industrial/dance stylings of Addicts, going further in that direction would’ve been far too obvious. Instead the band has done what absolutely no one was expecting for their sixth album; that’s right, Nachtmystium have gone and made a fucking black metal record, and a damn good one at that.
Then again, calling Silencing Machine a black metal record is a bit of an oversimplification. While it is undoubtedly the most straightforward thing the band has released in years, there are still plenty of outside influences creeping in. The corroded electronics of Addicts, as well as the twisted psychedelics of Assassins and Instinct: Decay are present and accounted for, but rather than dictate the direction of tracks like “And I Control You” “Decimation, Annihilation” and “These Rooms in Which We Sleep,” they bubble under the surface with a newfound sense of subtlety that makes them even more effective. Indeed, Nachtmystium singer/guitarist/mastermind Blake Judd has learned to seamlessly integrate these elements into his songwriting while keeping the band’s blackened core intact; as a result Silencing Machine is Nachtmystium’s most consistent and complete recording to date.
Nachtmystium have also brought a pop sensibility, at least by black metal standards, to their music over the past few albums, and that focus on catchiness remains intact here. While the hooks on Silencing Machine may not be as blatant as something like the aforementioned “No Funeral,” there’s still plenty here that’ll stick with you long after the album has stopped spinning, whether it be a guitar riff, synth line or vocal refrain. Like all of Nachtmystium’s latter-day recordings, Silencing Machine is an extremely dense work; it’s one of those albums that reveals new facets with each listen, which seems to be a trademark of both Sanford Parker’s production style and Judd’s approach to composition. Another definitive component of Silencing Machine‘s sound is a substantial low-end, which I assume has something to do with Judd’s appreciation of Ministry and the Chicago Wax Trax! Records industrial sound. The slightly murky, bass-heavy rumble lends a sonic heft to the album that’s all too frequently missing from black metal.
While I have appreciated the experimental reckless abandon of the last few Nachtmystium albums, I’ve always felt that they had the potential to unleash a fucking beast, provided they could just focus that adventurousness in the service of black metal, rather than the other way around. On Silencing Machine, Nachtmystium have done just that, and finally sound like they’re completely comfortable in their own skin as a band; the growing pains of Assassins and Addicts fully behind them. Of course this is Nachtmystium we’re talking about; at this point it wouldn’t surprise me if their next release was a blackened country album (now that would be interesting). Until that day comes though, they’ve got a killer record on their hands w/ Silencing Machine.