Review: Nachtmystium’s Silencing Machine

Nachtmystium: Silencing MachineNachtmystium: Silencing Machine (Century Media, 7/31/12)

“Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams”

Nachtmystium: “Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams”

Silencing Machine, Nachtmystium’s sixth full-length album, re-embraces the traditional Norwegian black-metal sound of its early efforts. The band’s first recordings were Darkthrone covers at heart, but by the time of Instinct: Decay in 2006, it had traded minimalism for riff salads and more textured songs. The Black Meddle series, consisting of Assassins (2008) and Addicts (2010), was purposefully experimental, drawing comparisons to Pink Floyd and Ministry.

Now Nachtmystium takes the lessons learned from experimentation and applies them to the conventional black-metal language of moveable minor chords and tremolo picking.

Nachtmystium’s strongest moments come from an intuitive songwriting knack. Its melodies are not as immediately memorable as classics of the black-metal genre like “Transilvanian Hunger” or “Funeral Fog,” but the timing of the transitions consistently feels right. The songs have reverted to simplicity as Nachtmystium has aged, and the convoluted structures of Instinct: Decay are gone. Instead, Silencing Machine relies on repetition and classic manipulations of tension and release. “Dawn Over the Ruins of Jerusalem” starts with minutes of blast beats before cathartically settling into a driving backbeat, recalling Burzum’s definitive “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss.” The purposefully primitive “Decimation, Annihilation” invokes the on-the-beat pummeling haze of Ildjarn, yet plays up the psychedelic and industrial aspects through an uncanny bass tone and a clattering keyboard timbre.

The traces of Nachtmystium’s forays into progressive rock can be heard in the delays and flangers that coat many of the leads. These textures work with the already transcendental droning of black metal to create mind-warping effects, and the high, whiney leads on “Reduced to Ashes” recall both Inquisition’s  Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer and Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express. A slightly more melodic and fuzzed-out keyboard tone on the mid-paced “Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams” is more evocative of Yellow Magic Orchestra than the oft-cited etherealism of Klaus Schulze.

Silencing Machine is a welcome step in Nachtmystium’s maturation process, as more overt surface-level meddling has been integrated into cohesive songs. This album is one step closer to a vision that will transcend the “experimental” label.

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