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The World We Left Behind Dean Brown , August 5th, 2014 16:43

Nachtmystium were no more. The preceding sentence should bring a grimace to the face of folks who have been directly affected by founding member Blake Judd’s drug-fuelled exploits. Having finally burnt all bridges with former band-mates and fans after being arrested in 2013 for directly stealing monies from customers to fund his drug habits, Judd is now left a lonely soul; lost in the aftermath of addiction, bad mistakes and underhanded criminality.

Sympathy must be extended to those whom Judd swindled from and the victims of the lies he’s told over the years, and no excuses should be made for his behaviour, whether fed by illegal substances or not. But sympathy must also be extended to Nachtmystium the band; an adventurous US black metal group sullied by the criminal actions of its self-destructive leader, who, last year, announced his decision to lay the band to rest, then changed his mind prior to the release of what was billed by Century Media as their forthcoming final album, The World We Left Behind. Judd’s reasoning for continuing with Nachtmystium is that now he is free from substances and has re-evaluated his life, he doesn’t see it as being logical to end the band, though there will be no touring involved (this may also be subject to change). However, his decision seems more to do with the fact that Nachtmystium already have a consumer base – albeit one that has no faith in the band’s product at present – and starting another brand would probably be as hard as quitting the heroin Judd had abused for years.

But in saying that, underground metal does need Nachtmystium. The Illnois-based band’s role in the evolution of US black metal has been substantial to say the least. Well-regarded underground musicians such as Jeff Wilson, N. Imperial, Wrest, Chris Black, Will Lindsay, Sandford Parker, Andrew Markuszewski, Charlie Fell, amongst numerous others have all played huge parts in helping Judd shape the artistic legacy of Nachtmystium over the years. From the band’s questionable origins, during which Nachtmystium were tied to National Socialist record labels – a part of their history that Judd has fought to denounce, with the band even threatening legal action should they be further slandered by false accusations of fascism – to the creative heights of Instinct: Decay (2006) and the two Black Meddle albums (2008’s Assassins and 2010’s Addicts), Nachtmystium’s experimental approach to black metal helped tear down the tenets of what was once a rigidly defined sub-genre.

Just like fellow compatriots in Judas Iscariot and Krieg, Nachtmystium based their early music on the austere atmospherics of the second wave of Norwegian black metal. The band then went on to imaginatively incorporate Pink Floyd’s progressive grandeur and Killing Joke’s bristling post-punk-isms, as well as other elements of industrial and psychedelic music. By doing so, Nachtmystium made enough space for themselves that they could have take their music in any direction they chose; instead controversy and drug abuse derailed their trajectory, with the blame for the band’s downward spiral landing squarely at the feet of Judd. 2012’s Silencing Machine suffered from Judd’s increasingly erratic behaviour. It was a record that slipped under the radar of most, although the quality of the music – which saw the band return to the more traditional black metal style of Instinct: Decay – remained notable overall. The new Nachtmystium album, The World We Left Behind will probably suffer a similar fate, as critics and past fans may be turned off by what transpired last year and may purposely ignore what Judd has to say on this album... And in all honesty, if you were to ignore this album, it wouldn’t leave you with much regret.

Exploring themes of addiction, recovery and finality – the latter of which sounds inane now that the sentiment has been removed by Judd’s decision not to retire the band – The World We Left Behind is, on a purely artistic level, the worst album released under the Nachtmystium banner. The major issue is that it lacks the creativity, the devilish glint, and the poisonous confidence that Judd previously injected (no pun intended) into Nachtmystium, his personal vehicle for experimentation and excess. The music echoes the dour mood of his painfully personal lyrics and the songwriting is slack overall: tracks outstay their welcome by a number of minutes and the interchanges and riffs are stock and predictable, backed by a serious lack of verve and direction, as found on the repetitious whirr of ‘Into The Endless Abyss’ and the miserable mid-tempo plod through ‘In the Absence Of Existence’. Both tracks together with the cringe-worthy and autobiographical ‘Voyager’ and the textured title track comprise most of the album’s running time and make for a morose trip through self-loathing piqued with an ample smothering of nauseating self-pity.

It’s fair to say Judd’s self-pity swallows this album whole, but there are glimmers of positivity to be taken from The World We Left Behind. Even though after a dramatic start with instrumental intro ‘Intrusion’ the transition into the skewed, Voivodian opening riff of ‘Fireheart’ sounds stilted, ‘Fireheart’ proves itself to be a strong track which harks back to Addicts, with its danceable post-punk beats acting as the song’s pulse. The post-punk beats and bubbling basslines return later in the album with ‘On The Other Side’; yet however solid these tracks are they do still lack the serrated hooks and cutthroat attack hoped for from Judd on what could have been a vicious “final” album. It’s instead left to the spiteful ‘Tear You Down’ to keep the unholy flame flickering at the heart of band; the slight electronic embellishments blending better with the blackened riffs here than they do on ‘Into The Endless Abyss’, during which the act as an annoyance rather than an atmospheric asset.

The aggressive spirit of ‘Tear You Down’ is all but a spark of the past, however. As a whole, The World We Left Behind is predominately dull, uninspired, and if things had gone as planned, a whimpering end to a band that used to be brazen about their ambitious musicality and fuck-the-world ethos. It is a truly forgettable album written during a time that its creator would clearly like to forget. Let’s just hope that now Judd has seemingly got his act together and has made the decision to continue with Nachtmystium that he will focus on stoking the flames to return as the incendiary songwriter he has proven to be in the past.