During the initial drafting of this review, much of the criticisms and acclaim lobbied at The World We Left Behind were hinged upon the fact that during its pre-release promotion, the record was touted as being the last ever release from psychedelic black metal act Nachtmystium following a much documented downward spiral of band leader Blake Judd. The idea of the swan song is beautiful, and a sorrowful (or triumphant) farewell is often romanticized, even unconsciously. Since promo copies have been sent to press, however, Judd reneged on the disbandment, choosing to continue on through his reported recovery. Suddenly, the perception of The World We Left Behind has been changed. Hype is a powerful being, and what could have been an able attempt at an all-encompassing bow-out feels more like a confused double-take. Unfair as it is, perception is everything.
For better or worse, Nachtmystium remains as it ever was, with The World We Left Behind continuing the slightly reigned-in style heard on 2012’s Silencing Machine. Having since reached peak weirdness leading up to 2010’s Addicts, gone are a majority of industrial-vibed dance beats, progressive changes in dynamic (including acoustic guitars), and ethereal keyboard work. What remains is the true core of the band’s sound; the air is thick with psychedelic atmosphere and smartly crafted songs packed with hooks and melodies begging for replay. Fans aching for more of Nachtmystium’s brand of catchy and bombastic black metal will find something worth clinging to in The World We Left Behind.
That being said, The World We Left Behind certainly feels like a record helmed by a musician exhausted of resources, with Judd having alienated much of his revolving door of musicians following his oft-reported drug abuse and 2013 arrest for theft. The absence of frequent collaborator Sanford Parker is most felt in the aforementioned decrease in keyboard use. It wouldn’t be a proper Nachtmystium album without swelling synth pads in some form or fashion, and they do pop up infrequently in leading roles, particularly in ‘Into the Endless Abyss’ and the album’s grooving post-punk-natured title track.
Still, Judd and his cobbled together lineup of musicians have managed to craft an album that is just nearly worthy of having almost been Nachtmystium’s last. What would have really left a lasting impression is a bit more desperation and experimentation throughout. Nachtmystium became a household name in black metal (if there ever was one) by being an act doused in oddities and given the freedom to think ahead without restraint. The World We Left Behind is a good album and all, but much of it feels a bit too safe compared to their past work. The band offers an example of this dynamic in action during the otherwise bleak and dreadful ‘Tear You Down,‘ which plods into an illusion of nowhere before its second half, where exhilarating use of syncopated synth wobs and maddening laughter from Judd change the track’s entire mood and outlook. This is exactly what we’ve been looking for, not the overlong sections of tremolo picking and uninspired drumming.
Nachtmystium needs more groove, more adventures into the strange and unknown, and more rock n’ roll. There’s not a lot of Foo Fighters worship (anyone remember ‘Nightfall‘?), but the killer ‘On The Other Side’ attempts to spice things up with an out-of-nowhere solo, as does the soulful croons of closer ‘Epitaph for a Dying Star‘. Try as they might, Nachtmystium just isn’t as much fun as they used to be. There’s a time and a place for everything, but Judd & Co seem confused as to what they wanted to do with their final outing. The World We Left Behind is an engaging record, but was unfit as a proper send-off. Fortunately, there’s still time to explore the grandiose in future Nachtmystium releases, and hopefully Judd follows through with sobriety along the way.
Nachtmystium’s The World We Left Behind gets…