Silencing Machine

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Following a brief, initial wave of enthusiasm, Nachtmystium leader Blake Judd went on to receive a ton of flak for "meddling" with black metal's traditional ingredients on his band's two-album Black Meddle series, comprised of 2008's Assassins and 2010's Addicts. For every open-minded listener that supported Judd's riskier efforts to broaden the genre's horizons (a "tradition' almost as old as black metal itself, ironically), there appeared to be dozens of self-appointed kvlt/trve fundamentalists ready to label him a traitor, a sellout, or worse. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. All this bears stating because Judd obviously wanted to deliver a strong and clear rebuttal to his accusers, even while ostensibly retreating to "safer" black metal terrain, with Nachtmystium's next album, 2012's Silencing Machine (which he may as well have called "In Your Face!"). Superficially at least, under-produced, blastbeat-driven, buzz-saw-guitar-permeated, howls-from-hell-laden material like "Dawn Over the Ruins of Jerusalem" and "Reduced to Ashes" may seem unilaterally recommitted to bulldozing along black metal's well-trodden left-hand path with single-minded apocalyptic purpose. But before long, Judd and co. begin wandering off course and into the surrounding forest's fog-shrouded mysteries -- as though to emphasize that any kind of creative retreat comes entirely on their terms. For the most part, these deviations involve the frequent sprinkling of psychedelic nuances (always one of the group's favorite songwriting adornments), or merely replacing bludgeoning violence with entrancing, unnerving dread on tracks like "The Lepers of Destitution" and the facetiously named "And I Control You." But more radical departures still come, by and by, via the possessed polka rhythm of "Decimation, Annihilation," the infectious arena metal croak-along "Give Me the Grave," and the domineering, almost Theremin-like synthesizer thrumming bringing alien textures to the title track and the unapologetically adventurous "Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams" (note too its abundant new wave, gothic, and psychedelic elements). All of which, in essence, shows Nachtmystium playing ball without conceding defeat; maintaining their sense of adventure without perhaps advertising it overtly, and ultimately pursuing much the same "black metal with benefits" blueprint undertaken by 2006's widely acclaimed, pre-hatred Instinct: Decay. Barely anyone seemed to take up arms over that particular work of hardly conventional black metal, so one can only hope the same will be true of Silencing Machine -- then Judd may finally enjoy a reprieve.

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