My experience of this band previous to listening to Silencing Machine, criminal as this may be was the track â€˜Ghosts of Graceâ€™ from 2008â€™s Assassins: Black Meddle, Part 1, which features all clean vocals, no blasting and not especially heavy guitars. Having subsequently spoken to Sammy Duet – who compared Goatwhoreâ€™s sound to Nachtmystiumâ€™s thusly; “Weâ€™re really more like being hit in the face with a chainsaw as opposed to being hit in the face with a napkin” – I was admittedly ready to consign them to pile marked â€˜pretentious wankâ€™. However, being the liberal and forgiving kinda guy that I am, I opted to give these lads another crack.
The album kicks off with the balls-out blackness of ‘Over the Ruins of Jerusalem’, which goes straight for the jugular in terms of speed, in a similar fashion to a Wolves in the Throne Room track. The prog elements intertwine subtly around the lead riff, with flanging effects and buzzing synths covertly doing their disorienting work. Around two thirds of the way through the relentless riff gives way to something entirely chuggier and more rock-oriented. This almost sums up Nachtmystium‘s sound on this album, with both black metal trem leads and prog rock riffing playing pivotal roles. It’s also worth noting that this track is deceptively structured, almost adhering to the standard verse/chorus/bridge structure, but the prog components give the illusion of a more amorphous composition.
This ethereally proggy black metal sound is revisited on the titular ‘Silencing Machine’ with more whooshing synths, this time taking more of a Pink Floyd ‘Talk to Me’ approach, but still retaining some semblance of verse/chorus structure like the skeleton of a ruin under the detritus of centuries. â€˜I Wait in Hellâ€™ visits much the same territory, but on what is arguably the focal point of the album,Â ’Lepers of Destitution’, this rigidity is entirely absent – displaying a marked inclination toward progressive arrangements; allowing keyboards to take centre stage, and counteracting the black metal harshness with melodious melancholy. This is the easiest track to compare to Wolves in the Throne Room on Silencing Machine, starting at a slow pace with the synths working their magic once again, conveying both orchestral accompaniments and crystalline incandescent ambience, for a more spacey feel.
â€˜Reduced to Ashesâ€™ and album finale â€˜These Rooms in Which We Weepâ€™ employ similar tactics, with Nachtmystiumâ€™s black metal grounding acting like the spine of a peacock feather, holding together the various offshoots which add colour and vibrancy to the compositions. Not only do the synths and noises contributed by Sanford Parker add this cosmic motif, but they also broaden the range of emotions conveyed by Silencing Machine. The lamenting female vocal sounds on â€˜Reduced to Ashesâ€™ are very sorrowful, as is the Theremin lament of ‘Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreamsâ€™. This track is a real curve-ball which demonstrates much more sedate tendencies.Â The swing of this track sounds almost like grungey post-rock, possessing a faint whiff of Joy Division, blossoming into an uplifting solo at the end. This is, Iâ€™m happy to report one of many surprising and well executed innovations on Silencing Machine.
In addition, Will Lindsay’s bass is very prominent throughout this record, further distinguishing it from the corpse-painted masses, and his verbose clankings almost recall those of Steve Harris. This is most evident on â€˜Decimation Annihilationâ€™, whose primitive bounce recalls latter Celtic Frost. Also, Charlie Fellâ€™s (drums) beats give an unnerving fairground feel. Going back to Nachtmystiumâ€™s penchant for more traditional verse/chorus arrangements on Silencing Machine, this is most pronounced on ninth track ‘Give Me the Grave’, whose awesome chorus possesses the glammy bombast of stadium rock.
Itâ€™s something of a renaissance period for modern black metal with a host of acts across the globe really pushing the boundaries of experimentation. Nachtmystium are arguably a totally unique proposition, and a scene in their own right. Whereas localised scenes such as the shoegaze scene championed by Alcest and Les Discret, and the so-called English Heritage Black Metal advocated by Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone and Fen embody a certain ethos, springing up alongside one another, Nachtmystium to the best of my knowledge stand alone in expounding psychedelia through black metal. Sure enough, Iâ€™ve compared them to Wolves a few times over the course of this review, but essentially they sound worlds apart. Nachtmystium have created a very rare beast indeed with silencing machine; a progressive album with total black metal credibility which has potential mass appeal through itâ€™s mellower moments and hooky choruses. If albums like Silencing Machine are the result, then i say long may this renaissance continue.
Nachtmystium ‘s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OfficialNachtmystium?fref=ts
Century Media Records’ Website: http://www.centurymedia.com/