While the practice of genre blending is nothing new to the world of metal, few bands have taken it to the extremes that Chicago band Nachtmystium have. Built on a strong foundation of second wave black metal, that band have evolved progressively into a psychedelic, industrial and post punk fueled black metal behemoth, culminating in their latest concoction, Addicts: Black Meddle Part II. Lead singer, guitarist and band mastermind Blake Judd weighs in on the band’s directional shifts and his growth as a musician.
The initial critical reaction to Addicts has been resoundingly positive, tells Judd, but that doesn’t satisfy him. “All the little black metal kids have already started on the Internet, so I’m hoping there’s a journalist somewhere that thinks it sucks, just ‘cause it will be awesome to have them rip it to shreds. Someone needs to do it to balance the equation.”
Given the band’s discernable progression in their musical output, Judd has a couple of defining factors, and the first one isn’t one that would immediately come to mind. “There’s two reasons for it. The fact that we record in a studio now makes a huge difference. Everything including Instinct: Decay (2006) was recorded in a living room. We never even mixed in a regular studio until we did the Worldfall EP (2008). We recorded that in a living room, but took it to a studio in Racine, Wisconsin founded by one of the guys in November’s Doom to mix that. Then, when I was in there, I was like ‘holy shit, we can really do a lot more’, not that I was really unaware of that. I don’t live under a rock. I know that there are things available that are better than my old ADDAC machine and my little mixing board. I realized the potential to further the ideas we were trying to lay to tape, and I mean Sanford Parker (who also produced the band’s previous album, Assassins) is obviously the right guy to go to. I think that if we’d recorded some of those earlier records in an actual studio, they’d sound a lot more evolved than they do,” says Judd.
Judd’s second reason for the band’s evolution will likely surprise a few people as well. “Musically, the inspiration comes because I don’t like black metal anymore. I’m not involved in it, I don’t hang out with people that are involved in it and for the most part, I’ve just completely separated myself from the extreme metal community, which has for me been a blessing. I was into it growing up, and don’t get me wrong, I love my metal and I love metal heads, I’ve been one the majority of my life, but I really grew tired of dealing with extremely negative people that have nothing to grasp onto in life other than this really abusive, negative music. That’s not really who I am anymore.”
“I’m an adult now and I have my shit together and I like my life, I like my girlfriend, I like my friends, I like it when it’s sunny out, and I’m finding inspiration in other places, and being a necro black metal dude isn’t one of them. I think getting away from that has kind of pulled me away from the music a lot too. I’ve been listening to much more music now than I would have never checked out due to the narrow-minded mentality that I certainly possessed, and I know many others do as well.” He goes on to say, “a lot of the people that are already out there on the Nuclear War Now! message forum saying ‘oh God, Nachtmystium put out this new song “No Funeral”. Holy shit, look at Blake’s haircut! What a faggot.’ Really? I got my hair cut, dude. My haircut’s got a lot to do with the making of the record… I see this shit, and I’m like ‘man, am I glad I don’t have anything to do with this shit anymore.’ It’s not that I’m upset that they don’t like the music, I couldn’t care less. It’s the immediate reaction to one song, and you read this shit, and the first thing you see are people bitching about how I look. I’m really glad to be away from all that.”
Rest assured that even with Judd’s change in musical taste, the band won’t abandon their roots. “I still have the intention of making my music extreme. It will always be kind of black metal by default, I think, because I don’t know how to play another type of music. I’m not a very studied musician to say the least,” admits Judd.
Judd’s freedom to do something unique in the usually restrictive genre of metal is generational. “It’s nice to get to that age where you realize ‘ok, it’s cool for these guys to do something different’. Just because this guy listens to rock music, doesn’t make him a poseur and [he] shouldn’t be cast out of the metal section at the record store. I think there’s a lot of that happening at the moment. There is this whole group of bands that are between the ages of 25 and 32, 33 and I fall right in the middle of that category. A lot of people seem to be reaching out to different shit these days and I think it’s really cool. I think we’re the first generation of metal heads that have really done that. If you look back to the 90’s and 80’s, it was pretty exclusionary, and people only played metal. If you weren’t thrash metal, you were death metal or black metal or goth metal, but what you definitely weren’t was indie rock. It’s funny to see how that’s all clumping together now with this young generation of metal heads,” expounds Judd.
When asked whether they’re now finding their own sound or simply wearing their influences even more, Judd is hesitant to answer, instead leaving it up to the individual, saying “I think that’s more for the listener to decide. I’m not really quite sure what the fuck I’m doing to be perfectly honest with you, but I like it. I like what I’m doing. I think that stylistically, we’re all over the place. I have really horrible ADD in real life, or that’s what a psychiatrist told me when I was in the sixth grade. It makes sense, it’s kind of showcased in the music, because every record is a little different. A lot of that has to do with ‘this is what I’ve been listening to for the last year or two since we made the last one.’ That’s where the stuff comes through, so I’m not sure if we’re onto something as brand new as some people may think, that’s not what the plan is, it just kind of happened this way. What I always try to do is make a record that I’ve never made before, and a record that I don’t have in my collection.”
Nachtmystium’s new album Addicts is out today, Tuesday, June 8th, in North America on Century Media.