Ever since NACHTMYSTIUM released the groundbreaking (hell, Earth-shattering) "Instinct: Decay", founder Blake Judd has made it very apparent that he and his band most certainly do not want to be labeled as black metal. While they never really turned their backs to the influences of BURZUM and DARKTHRONE, the strong element of psychedelica involved on said recording definitely made a bold statement. Nonetheless, USBM loyalists flocked to the album, and the so called "mainstream" metal contingency took notice as well. Since then, we've all been waiting to hear what that initial evolution would bring next. With the "Worldfall" EP, we got a slight taste of what Judd had in mind, but since when has a mere two songs defined the crux of a man's vision?
Where "Worldfall" might have been an appetizer of sorts, "Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1" is the meat and fucking potatoes of a menu ripe with innovation and ingenuity. This isn't the sort of progression made by blindly treading into parts unknown, rather by encompassing elements of what has been with what has come to result in a production that nobody but its architects could have ever imagined. Ushered in by a rhythmic chug that melds BLACK SABBATH's "Children Of The Grave" with overtones of Jimmy Page, "One Of These Nights" gives way to "Assassins" which will surely be the new anthem for the dissident and socially disenfranchised. The lyric "We feel nothing and are nothing… We stand alone, pride does not die," is a battle cry waiting to happen. Lyrical impact aside, the song boldly brings together the likes of MOTÖRHEAD, BURZUM and NACHTMYSTIUM's own take on metal in an eight minute onslaught of "Holy shit!" After a solid minute of synth-born relaxation, the title track flows right into "Ghosts Of Grace". Unlike its predecessor, this tune comes from the group's initial black metal influence, yet delivers the same sort of unforgettable hook as heard moments before. A slight break in the action comes from the trance-inducing "Away From The Light", only to be nuked by "Your True Enemy"; one of the most traditionally caustic BM tunes of the bunch (along with "Omnivore"). "Code Negative" stands out as a rather eerie affair with twisted lead melodies, haunting whispers and PINK FLOYD-isms driving the songs into a welcome state of dementia. NACHTMYSTIUM's true sense of innovation occurs with the three-part "Seasick". The first part, "Drowned At Dusk", contrasts a bold rhythm guitar track against a lead that delivers a Scandinavian-born folk melody that morphs into another David Gilmour moment. I honestly don't think I've ever heard a song as ingenious (on a metal album) as the second part in the "Seasick" saga, "Oceanborne". A song that boats an upbeat backing track that sees PHARAOH's Matt Johnsen allowing his jazz fusion side to improv away with Mid-Eastern flair and trade chops with a smooth saxophone (played by Bruce Lamont of YAKUZA) that pays more tribute to Charlie Parker than most metalheads will ever realize. "Assassins" could have ended there, but NACHTMYSTIUM took the progression yet one step farther with "Silent Sunrise". Probably the most uplifting song on any disc that one could connect with the likes of the corpse-painted, "Silent Sunrise" brings a (dare I say) positive conclusion the album with its major chord progression, yet still holds on to the disturbia heard on the previous 40 minutes.
If Blake Judd set out to write an album that transcends the genre in which he helped make viable, mission accomplished. In doing so, he managed to not only breathe fresh air into a spectrum of metal that sorely needs it, (let's face it, corpse-painted, sword-wielding blasphemers are becoming a dime a dozen) but has crossed that bridge between those of us who were introduced to metal through BLACK SABBATH and LED ZEPPELIN and those who came into extremity via MAYHEM. Blake, you may not have completely surpassed black metal, but you sure as fuck have reinvented it.