Black metal fans are a fickle lot. Any break with the rigid orthodoxy of the tenets set out by the first and second wave of black metal bands is enough for the dark hordes of the Internet to slag a band with the tag of "false." Judging by "Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1," then, Nachtmystium are clearly unconcerned about getting any kind of verbal shit slung at them. Building on the progressive tendencies of their last few releases, "Assassins" is a full blown experiment that pushes the boundaries of what can be accomplished within the framework of a traditional black metal background.
The album starts off with "One of These Nights," the rare intro that actually accomplishes what it's supposed to: set the table for the rest of the album. Besides the obvious Pink Floyd reference in the name, there's a riff that sounds uncannily similar to Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" set over a trippy electronic mist. These are not elements you'd expect to find in black metal, and that carries throughout the album. Nachtmystium throw some serious curves, like the straight-ahead rocker "Ghosts of Grace" and the sprawling "Seasick" trilogy, which closes out the album amid weeping guitars, spacey atmosphere, and…a saxophone? Yes, a saxophone. There's more traditional black metal fare, but even these songs feature dynamic and surprising influences. Floydian synth, '70s hard rock solos, and catchy as hell choruses are the rule rather than the exception. Turns out the "meddle" in the title is more than just a pun; it's a declaration of intent.
The skeleton of "Assassins" may be black metal, but it's fleshed out by elements that other bands would be afraid to touch. It's pretty ballsy of Nachtmystium to put together something this far afield of convention. While the message board warriors may cry false, what could be truer than releasing an outstanding record that people will actually want to listen to? The rest of the pack can keep their corpsepaint, goofball stage names, and garbage-can production; "Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1" is easily one of the most creative albums of the year, and one that any metalhead would do well to lend an ear to.