Nachtmystium – Instinct : Decay Review

originally written by Jimmy Brandon

One of the things I love about metal, among others, is when a band or artist can take something generally considered ugly, and make it somewhat beautiful without having to compromise anything in the process. Black metal’s raw side can be quite ugly as we all know, and likewise, the more graceful, symphonic side sometimes drifts into feminine, supple, nearly elegant theatrics. Within the vast expanse of middle-ground between the two extremes lies Chicago area’s anti-socialites Nachtmystium, consisting of members of Twilight, Krieg, and Cult Of Daath, and led by mainman, Azentrius (Blake, founder of Battle Kommand Records). Already known to be devastating in a live setting, the progression from being one man’s single vision has developed into an authentic, potent joint-property of sorts.

Even upon the first listen Instinct: Decay establishes itself with noticeable growth in the songwriting department, but not in the way I expected. Instead of adopting a predictably faster, more technically precise direction, or an equally predictable raw, minimalist drone, Nachtmystium have fetidly blossomed into an ambient, atmospherically caustic entity, with a twist. In odd turn, the increase of more ethereal psychedelics infused into the song structures blends with a nearly haywire, nebulous New Wave Of British Heavy Metal point of view. The contagious mid-paced groove of “Chosen By No One” literally steps with both feet into realms of more traditional metal with no apologies, sounding both progressive, thoughtful, and most importantly, fucking heavy. The wildly soulful, unstructured, and whammy-heavy leads also provide a nearly gossamer divergence to the sometimes burrowing rhythms, entrancingly intensifying the already manic climate.

I do need to clarify that this is entirely a black metal album, so it’s not as if Nachtmystium are writing Saxon songs, and the execution of Instinct: Decay exemplifies the almost scalding heat given off by American black metal bands. Burning tremolo and mid-to-fast blasts that never truly get nihilistically hypersonic dominate this album (think Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse for similar speed comparison), and the previously mentioned classic, majestic and implicit NWOBHM groove is utilized for ample rhythmic seasonings, adding something more substantial than just senseless aggression. The riffs are uncomplicated, deceptively captivating, and almost totally bereft of staccato crunch, creating a very lustrous flow as the merciless dynamics of “Keep Them Open”, “Antichrist Messiah”, and “Eternal Ground” rip along with an austere, thoroughly nihilistic slant in both rhythm, and word.

As a whole, this disc takes a few risks. The production is indeed raw, but its definition has changed a bit. The tones of the guitars are thick and less trebly than what I’ve gotten used to in the scene, and the bass in particular really makes its presence known by forming a roaring yet discernable wall of cauterizing sound. A fault is exposed through this very same thick sound, as the riffs really aren’t all that crystal-clear or sharp, resulting in some of the more esoteric intricacies being muted slightly. Blake’s vocals are firmly mid-ranged and performed with surprising enunciation, continuing to be the steadfast focal point of the disc, but they stand a little high in the mix, occasionally overshadowing the great rhythms as they rumble beneath Blake’s throaty screams. A last criticism of mine is actually one towards the songwriting, because it sometimes sounds like a tease. Some of the tunes are so compactly dynamic, that it feels like the songs aren’t as fleshed-out as they could have been, the otherwise stellar “Keep Them Open” particularly suffers due to it’s premature, effects-laden end. Given even a minute and a half more time, this song probably would have made me shit myself in delight more than it already does.

For having so many members busy in additional projects, the isolationist lifestyle of these musicians appears to be bearing some awesomely rotten fruit. From an innovative standpoint, Nachtmystium are at the forefront of the USBM realm. Instinct: Decay is an exquisitely cantankerous release, raising the bar for both band and genre on these shores a notch or two higher, with still more room for growth. I’ve already picked up my copy from MetalHaven, and I’d happily do it again.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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