NACHTMYSTIUM Giving the middle finger to black-metal purists.
“Psychedelic black metal” is a tag that Chi-town black-metal stalwarts Nachtmystium (who come to Great Scott on Saturday) started to hear around 2006, when they released Instinct: Decay. It’s an odd tag — after all, straight-up black metal is pretty psychedelic in and of itself, with lo-fi dirges full of never-ending hate that are so sonically crusty, you practically need to put your ear to the speakers to make out anything other than noise. Like all true psychedelic musical movements, black metal in its purest form envelops you in a thick fog that is immobilizing and mesmerizing. And as with the psychedelic rock of the ’60s, black metal’s initial burst provoked madness (or at least found an audience among the mad), its dark, hermetically sealed world of stark horror linked time and time again to unspeakably anti-social crimes.
Nachtmystium main man Blake Judd has been accused, post-Instinct, of having committed similar crimes against black metal. Having sworn his allegiance to the form as a teenager, when the “band” consisted mainly of himself, a bedroom, and his chosen alias, “Azentrius,” he has since been labeled a traitor for each move he’s made to break up the maddening monotony of classic BM. Even in his earlier works, there are sonic clues that Judd was not content to limit himself to a hiss-laden 10 minutes of unending screams, whether in the touched bliss of “Transmission Postmortem” (from 2004’s Demise) or the epic guitar melodicism of “Lost Wisdom” (from 2002’s Reign of the Malicious).
But those touches are nothing compared with the middle finger given by the band’s most recent two long-players. Twin albums conjoined by a lyrical focus on overcoming struggles and a sonic and thematic obsession with Pink Floyd, 2008’s Assassins: Black Meddle, pt. I and this year’s Addicts: Black Meddle, pt. II (both Century Media) find Nachtmystium shunning the black-metal rulebook. The transformation has been primarily in the service of increased heaviness — the stoner thud of Addicts’ “Nightfall” has prog-like serpentine riffage, blistering-yet-clean lead-guitar work, and monstrously muscular drum volleys that make the band’s older lo-fi grime sound like child’s play.
Judd has non-musical reasons to disavow his black-metal past, and not just because he spent the bulk of his teens and early 20s in corpse paint. Since so much of black metal’s æsthetic stance is posited atop a throne of omnidirectional hate, the genre is always dogged with accusations of connections to white power. Last year, Nachtmystium were dumped from a massive Atlanta metalfest when the event’s corporate sponsors got wind of the band’s alleged former National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) ties. At one point, a NSBM one-man CD-R label had sold an unauthorized band demo. That forced the band to issue a press statement asserting their “non-political” bent.
It’s never fun having to reiterate that you’re not a Nazi — but perhaps that’s part and parcel of Nachtmystium’s break from the “purity” of black metal. Untethered by scene dogma, the band seem determined to confuse in pursuit of new sonic kicks, especially with the strange detours into (ulp!) dance beats on two Addicts tracks — the Depeche Mode sound of “No Funeral” and the shoegazey maelstrom of “Ruined Life Continuum.” The vocals remain in-the-red shredded, but the music is lush and engorged, a far cry from the non-stop nightmare of the their earlier work. So it is for the band as a whole: as they climb out of the teenage nightmare of black metal, Nachtmystium are finding clarity in the mind manifestation of true psychedelic metal.
NACHTMYSTIUM + ZOROASTER + ATLAS MOTH + DARK CASTLE | Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave, Allston | September 18 at 9 pm | $13-$15 | 617.566.9015 or greatscottboston.com