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Reign of the Malicious (2002)

Nachtmystium is an American black metal band, formed in 2000 by Azentrius and helped along by a revolving line-up. Though not one of the most interesting bands of the modern era, they began as many others in paying tribute to the early '90s sound. Their 2002 demo, Reign of the Malicious, is one of the better works to come from Nachtmystium. Note that I refer to this as a demo, because that is exactly what it was considered when I first had contact with Azentrius and was provided with a copy of this recording. Only some time later was this retconned and considered as the band's debut full-length.

The production and overall recording style backs this up, as well. The sound is really poor, almost as if they were playing in the basement while the tape recorder was running upstairs. The way some of the songs begin with feedback and whatnot also seems to lend an air of informality to the whole thing. That is not necessarily negative, as the primitive approach really suits the musical style and overall presentation. There is sort of an LLN vibe on display here. Despite the fuzzy and distant quality, the guitars are able to stand out amongst the rest, rather than being buried by the percussion. Even the vocals are just high enough to play a role in creating a grim and ugly atmosphere.

Musically, Reign of the Malicious is completely derivative of bands like Darkthrone, Mütiilation and Burzum. There are a lot of cold and mournful tremolo riffs throughout the demo and they are actually rather memorable. Being unoriginal is not always a bad thing, so long as the music maintains some decent level of quality. Three of the five studio tracks on here are rather enjoyable, if you are a fan of the aforementioned bands. Listening to songs like the title track and "Hateful Descent", one is taken back in time about ten years, when this style was being spawned. The guitars possess a sharp edge that cuts you like a knife and the drumming is fast but primitive and even a little sloppy. Nonetheless, it all works. The songs are fast-paced, for the most part, but there are slower sections that come along and add to the melancholic atmosphere. "May Darkness Consume the Earth" is another example of this, beginning in the pure northern style of fast tremolo melodies and then slowing down to unleash pure misery. Azentrius does a good job with the vocals, sounding like a being in pure torment, occasionally venturing into Count Grishnackh territory with the tortured shrieks, especially during some of the more sombre moments when the music slows down to a morbid crawl. Thanks to the poor sound quality, he doesn't come across as being too over-the-top with this. His sound is hardly decipherable at all and, without lyrics, it's pretty much impossible to tell what he is saying. Judging by the song titles and the nature of the music, it's all likely got something to do with dark and misanthropic themes. At least there is no pretentious, pseudo-intellectual theistic Satanism going on, largely because this recording predates that trend by some years. Unfortunately, Reign of the Malicious is hindered by some rather bland and mediocre tracks, such as "Call of the Ancient" and "Ritual Sacrifice". Worse yet is the cover of Burzum's "Lost Wisdom". This is one of those bands that no one should ever attempt to cover, as there is absolutely no way to do justice to the originals and the only outcome is disappointment. This version falls flat, as expected, and exposes Nachtmystium's weaknesses even more. The addition of a live track, at the end, is rather pointless as well.

In the end, this demo is a mixed bag. Three exceptional, though unoriginal, songs and a bunch of filler. For those into the early '90s black metal sound, this is worth checking out. Nachtmystium, at their best, managed to come closer to honouring the spirit of the Second Wave better than their American peers Judas Iscariot ever could, for example. Problem is, Azentrius was rather inconsistent and failed to put the proper amount of time and effort into making sure all of the songs were strong and worthwhile. This is not essential, by any definition of the word. However, if you like grim and primitive black metal influenced by Darkthrone, Burzum and the LLN, you may want to give this a listen.
(29 Jan. 2013)


Nachtmystium began as yet another generic band that owed its existence to the likes of Darkthrone, Burzum and Mütiilation. The music was fairly bland, with a few decent ideas tossed in, though hardly original. Blake Judd, the driving force behind this project, was just another fanboy that wanted to try his hand at recreating the past, in his own mediocre way. He also likes to re-write history, in that the Reign of the Malicious demo was later claimed to be the band's first official album, though when I first spoke to the guy he mentioned it as a demo and actually said the same about Demise, which was released through Autopsy Kitchen Records in early 2004. For the sake of argument, I will consider this Nachtmystium's debut L.P. For what it is, this is not a bad record. It was later released with different artwork, but the Burum rip-off job that is featured on the original suits the music far better.

The album begins with a pointless intro that does absolutely nothing to add to the atmosphere of the album. Thankfully, one can skip past it to the first real track, "Solitary Voyage". This one is a mid-paced song that possesses a mournful and tormented feeling. The main theme features a miserable tremolo melody with open chords being played underneath. It is quite primitive and one gets the impression that the musicians do not have the strongest grasp of how to wield their instruments, but the effort is there. The raw and fuzzy guitar riffs dominate the sound, with the vocals being buried in the mix a bit and the drums at a somewhat decent level. The production is reminiscent of Filosofem, from Burzum, just not quite as good. As the song progresses, it takes on an epic vibe and gives the listener some optimism for the rest of the L.P. Sadly, this is about as good as it gets.

"Scorpio Incarnate" is a faster-paced track that is built around blast beats and fast tremolo riffs. Obviously, this displays some influences from Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger album. By the middle of the song, things slow down and the aura transforms into something more evocative of Burzum. Much like Judas Iscariot, Nachtmystium owes a lot to those two bands, though the drug addict, Blake, manages to do a better job of imitating them.

The next song, "Ashes to Ashes", is a little monotonous and only really comes to life as a sorrowful melody is introduced late in the song, playing over the main theme. This maintains the same melancholic atmosphere as before, though it falls rather flat and does not do much. It just crawls along, accomplishing little.

"The Glorious Moment" is a boring track that seems like a mixture of random ideas that were borrowed from other bands and then tossed together to kill about five minutes. The final couple minutes show more life, but the generic nature of the riffs cannot be ignored. The vocals might have added to the overall effect, but they are too low in the mix to have much influence.

The last real song on here is "Rise and Fall", which creeps at a slow pace. There are some effects, such as demonic voices in the background that do little to help the track. This comes off as nothing more than the obligatory 'lengthy song' just to fill space, as there is nothing going on in these ten minutes that could not have been accomplished in four or five. An interesting melody arrives near the very end, which actually possesses more feeling than the rest of the riffs, combined.

The outro is nothing more than eight and a half minutes of senseless noise that has nothing to do with the vibe of the album and is likely only there to pad the running time. Without the intro and outro, this release is barely more than half an hour.

Demise is not a bad record, for those that are interested in hearing modern black metal that is purely derivative of earlier bands, with almost no unique input whatsoever. It starts out a lot stronger than it ends, so you may find yourself only listening to the first two tracks before getting bored and moving on to something else. Chances are, if the guy had not given me a copy for free (to play on my radio show), I would not have bothered adding this to my collection and I would not recommend anyone else to do so, either. The American black metal scene has always been pretty lame and average at best, and Nachtmystium is no different.
(2 Nov. 2011)

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