Thursday, February 11, 2010

Again We Rise: Nachtmystium - Worldfall EP

True to Iron Maiden's promise at Madison Square Garden in 2000, the decade that followed has seen a resurgence of metal that not only obliterated the specter of death staking the genre in the 1990s, but makes previous heydays seem puny in comparison. Metal in the 2000s was all about proliferation: new styles emerged, old ones regenerated, and - thanks to the Internet - exposure spread like a virus. To highlight all of that success , we're launching Again We Rise, an occasional feature that will celebrate the releases that rose above the voluminous crowd to become classics. Today, Nachtmystium's Worldfall EP.

At some point in the past few years, black metal had a bit of a renaissance in the US: metal became big enough that it started spilling outside its previous listening circles, indie rockers latched onto black metal's lo-fi aesthetic, Mastodon demonstrated that it was possible for guys playing mix noisy metal with 70s rock to make a splash with the kids, and suddenly it was a big deal to be in band playing music that floated in one of metal's grayer areas. By choice or by accident, Nachtmystium put themselves in this camp over the course of the decade, and while Assassins Part 1: Black Meddle is the better known example of their black metal/70s rock cross, it was Wordfall, the 5 song release they put out in 2007, that caught my ear first.

My favorite track - and to my mind, one of the band's best songs - is the title track, which leads off the EP: seven minutes of bleak tied together by the dingy, gritty distortion on the guitars, rolling on and on without getting muddy or tiresome. It's the sort of riff that will stick in your head for hours, and it's an even more effective hook for the simplicity of the sounds floating above it: most of the lyrics are Blake Judd whispering, "worldfall...oblivion," over and over again. At one point, the song feels like it's trying to shake off its decent into madness and goes into a frenetic solo, but by the end, the sonic despair ultimately takes hold once and for all.

Things get a little more psychedelic on "Depravity," which intersperses a heavily-phased interlude halfway between a skillful execution of some standard black metal idioms, but really kick into high gear on "Solitary Voyage": droning guitars provide texture, but it's the spacey keyboard-sounding lead and anguished, echoey vocals that create the atmosphere. If ever there were a soundtrack for a doomed solo space voyage, it's this song, particularly at the end, when everything breaks into haunting arpeggios that seem to channel absolute emptiness.

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