Nachtmystium - Instinct: Decay - 2006 - Battle Kommand Records
1. Instinct 2. A Seed For Suffering 3. Keep Them Open 4. Chosen By No One 5. Circumvention 6. Eternal Ground 7. Antichrist Messiah 8. Here's To Hoping 9. Abstract Nihilism 10. Decay
There is a fierce temptation to label Nachtmystium as ‘black metal’s best cover band’ and nothing more.
Anecdote: originally, the band focused on raw, early 90’s Scandinavian worship (and therefore was nearly identical to most USBM groups), but along the way have branched out into new territory. New for them, at least, but most likely not new for their audience; each new effort from the band over the past few years is (arguably) a direct emulation of other, more famous bands, generally within the black metal field. Despite this, the band has become one of the Midwest’s, if not America’s, foremost names in their genre, and the projects associated with their line-up (Azentrius in particular) indicate an elite status indeed.
Their newest effort, ‘Instinct: Decay’, has been promoted (by the band’s own promotional material) as Pink Floyd influenced and psychedelic. And there are indeed many obvious outside influences, but the use of the term ‘psychedelic’ is somewhat misleading. Azentrius has not turned in his lo-fi guitar/vocal rasps for dispassionate chords and languid, ‘quiet desperation’ a la David Gilmour and Co.
Rather than ‘psychedelic’, Nachtmystium’s current style would perhaps be better described as occasionally ambient, experimental, or, to be most precise, Leviathan-esque. Yes, that much-celebrated one-man outfit from California does seem to be the template for Nachtmystium’s efforts here. Many of the tracks here slog through the same depths of ambience, eerie sound effects, and even some of the same white noise Wrest is so fond of using.
The end of ‘Eternal Ground’, for example, and the subsequent onset of ‘Antichrist Messiah’ is precisely the sort of tortured juxtaposition found on Leviathan’s ‘Tentacles of Whorror’ album. Similarly identical is the ambience and reverb layered over faded vocals and rock riffs ‘Chosen By No One’.
One can hardly fault Nachtmystium’s choice of a muse. This style, faintly rock, faintly roll, lots of metal, and a little bit of soul, has done wonders for Leviathan’s career and, if the recent buzz is any indication, it will for Nachtmystium’s as well.
And, even through these copied motifs, ‘Instinct: Decay’ still has its share of unique moments. The electronics and newfound emphasis on melody and ambience may seem like gimmicks, and perhaps they are, but this is still quite undoubtedly black metal. Most importantly, enough of Azentrius’s personality comes through that the product seems more like homage than plagiarism.
Sometimes, Nachtmystium do overreach their fairly modest boundaries, and conversely, other tracks are nearly forgettable, but for a band that started so one-dimensionally, Nachtmystium have come a long way. ‘Instinct: Decay’ features numerous high points from a range of genres. The melodic break with an almost Emperor-like wail in ‘Eternal Ground’, the Burzum in ‘Here’s To Hoping’, and even The Crown-inspired rhythms in ‘Abstract Nihilism’ are the most notable, and others can be unearthed with a bit of digging.
Nachtmystium are essentially a pop-culture compendium of black metal’s various incarnations throughout the years. They would function well as an introductory band for fresh blood or an amusing diversion for veterans with the wide knowledge base to appreciate the variety of influences here. While unlikely to be anyone’s absolute favorite, ‘Instinct: Decay’ could very well mark a turning point in black metal’s popularity. The combined result of their tour with Daughters this fall and the fact that the band openly admits their rock influences could do much to dismantle the wall between black metal’s long-time elitist standpoint.
Whether this is a good thing, I leave to your discretion. Suffice to say that many artists would do well to focus on their music instead of ideological promotion. It is far from the best black metal album to come out this year, but it is certainly one of the more candid.