Chicago’s Nachtmystium is not just one of the best black metal bands in the world; they are, right now, one of the most exciting bands making music in any genre. Their new album, Addicts: Black Meddle Part 2, is perhaps the most expansive metal record to be released in 2010, bursting with ideas and experimentation and new approaches, though it contains all the hallmarks of the genre and the band: There is immensity to the sound; there is violence, sadness, anger. The record’s very real, human themes—primarily among theme being, yes, addiction—are especially welcome in a genre that too often dwells only in fantasy and/or solipsism. Nachtmystium head Blake Judd (the only member still standing from the band’s first incarnation, and who is also part of American black metal supergroup Twilight) answered some questions with the Press just prior to his band’s show at The Studio at Webster Hall in Manhattan. Nachtmystium will perform tonight at The Studio and on September 19 at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory.
Long Island Press: When did you decide that the second part of your “Black Meddle” series would be called “Addicts”? When did that lyrical theme (addiction) first take hold of your imagination and songwriting?
Blake Judd: I decided on the title and the album theme sometime in late 2008 when the writing process began. It all continued to develop more and more throughout 2009 as I was writing the bulk of the music and realized that in some ways I was very much living the lifestyle that was inspiring the story I wanted to tell with this record, which made it ever more personal to me and I completely decided on keeping the title I’d been working with (“Addicts”) and finished the writing in the following months with Jeff Wilson.
Long Island Press: There has long been a romanticizing of drug abuse in Nachtmystium’s image. How do you reconcile that aspect of your image with the lyrical content on “Addicts”, which depicts addiction in fairly horrific ways?
Blake Judd: An addict lives in that “romanticized world of abuse” you speak of oftentimes amidst the horrific realities of their own addictions or issues with drugs, which is what makes the theme of real drug addiction as horrifying as we have attempted to portray it through the lyrics on Addicts. Having struggled with addiction on and off in my life, I’ve at times been very amped up about doing just what you described (romanticizing it), and have taken that lifestyle and used it as a marketing tool for the band. It works for our chaotic lifestyle still to this day.
Long Island Press: You said in an interview with Decibel that you tried “singing” on “Addicts.” Were you happy with the results? Do you believe your work will head in a direction where textured and melodic singing will eventually replace (primarily, at least) the guttural growling we have come to associate with Nachtmystium and black metal in general?
Blake Judd: I’m very happy with the vocals on “Addicts.” They’re still very “gruff,” but they’re not as harsh as previous albums and there is a bit more melodic texture to it. I’m trying to do the same thing live to the best of my ability, on those songs anyways. I think you’ll see us continue to try to make the vocal approach to this band more and more along these lines in the future, but I would also always expect there to be somewhat of a “rough” edge to them despite this fact.
Long Island Press: Right away, “High on Hate” seems to spring very naturally from your last Nachtmystium release, “Doomsday Derelicts,” but even as the song progresses, it moves into less immediately recognizable black metal territory, into something quite different entirely. From there, the record seems to have no boundaries, but never does it quite return to that straightforward approach. Was that a conscious decision on your part, to start the record on such a note, and to veer away in such disparate directions?
Blake Judd: Yes, we wanted to open this record with something that, following up an album like “Assassins”, I’d assume most conscious listeners wouldn’t have expected. It was then intentional to put the two tracks that follow the opener exactly where they are to take the listener on an immediate ride around the world in which we were going to voyage into on this album. I really like the way it all flows myself.
Long Island Press: I’ve heard some traditionalists who deride Nachtmystium as populist black metal–does that mindset ever influence your artistic choices?
BJ: I don’t care what anyone says about my band. Nachtmystium is my life, it’s all I do, and any f**king asshole black metal douche bag who wants to question me or my integrity can feel free to do so right to my face if he feels so inclined. I and the four people who travel with me six to seven months out of the year are total extremists in our lifestyles and there is nothing “fancy” or “glamorous” about our lifestyles as members of Nachtmystium, We just happen to get paid enough these days to keep gas in our van (note, VAN) and the wheels on it turning and maybe pay a month or two of rent each after a tour. If someone thinks that is like living some rock star lifestyle, think again.
LIP: American black metal is at a very exciting place right now, with more bands experimenting in more areas, and achieving some pretty amazing results (even as some bands drive further away from what traditionalists perceive to be “black metal”). What are your thoughts on the state of American black metal today?
BJ: I don’t listen to new black metal at all these days unless it’s made by the guys I play music with (like Twilight members and Nachtmystium members’ side projects). The only black metal bands I really pay any attention to outside of what I just mentioned are Watain and Blut Aus Nord. I have plenty of old classics that keep me happy and I use my free time to check out new music these days, checking out other stuff outside of the black metal realm as I’ve burnt myself out on black metal, honestly.
Long Island Press: Will the follow-up to “Addicts” be “Black Meddle Part 3”? Have you decided how many parts will eventually comprise the “Black Meddle” series?
Blake Judd: Nope. “Black Meddle Pt. II” was it. All done; the next album will be something totally different.