Chicago-based black metal entity Nachtmystium, more or less the work of its founder and sole constant member, Blake Judd, created some of the more important statements in black metal to come out of the United States as its sound developed throughout the 2000s. Starting out as traditionally modeled raw and tumultuous black metal in the style of Norwegian BM legends like Darkthrone and Mayhem, the band slowly grew more experimental, conceptually daring, and musically challenging with unconventional dips into prog, electronic ambience, and other unlikely forms of musical brutality on albums like 2006's Instinct: Decay. Eighth studio album The World We Left Behind came after a difficult stretch of years for Judd, who struggled with drug abuse as well as imprisonment for theft, not to mention numerous complaints from fans who claimed he took money for Nachtmystium merchandise and flagrantly failed to deliver the goods. These struggles are echoed in the album's tormented lyrics, which sit high in the mix and unfortunately come off more as a long, uninteresting list of overblown clichés of suffering than anything even remotely emotionally resonant. Sadly, the glory of Nachtmystium's experimental heights finds itself watered down into generic metal riffing and uninspired goth rock tropes that teeter on the edge of parody with ridiculous and bland songs like "In the Absence of Existence." The confusingly bad "On the Other Side" holds onto no energy or danger but instead sounds like a song written by someone who just heard the Pixies for the first time, about 25 years late in the game. Album closer "Epitaph for a Dying Star" plods along with muddy acoustic guitars and inexplicable interjections from a gospel singer. Hints of black metal power peek through on "Into the Endless Abyss" but are quickly brought down by corny synths and a general sense of exhaustion. Lacking any of the imagination of previous albums, The World We Left Behind feels brilliantly disappointing, almost to the point of undoing the good work that came before rather than just standing on its own as a weak album. When more and more layers of intrigue strip away or ideas simply fall irreparably flat, we're left to wonder what was at Nachtmystium's seemingly astonishing core to begin with.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas