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#4 Album of the Year

Nachtmystium - Instinct: Decay (Battle Kommand)

Could Nachtmystium's Instinct: Decay be the best anti-black metal album ever recorded? Sure, it has aggressive, lightning bolt riffery and ambient, almost folkish interludes, but this Wheaton, IL troika seem to have transcended all the usual black metal clichés with their melodically infectious guitar work (more Dead Can Dance than, er, Dead) and moaning choruses. They'll let all the Emperor knockoffs tackle the creepy keyboards and totally sore throats. Even more surprising is that it was fellow USBM musician and friend Wrest (Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice) who turned Nachtmystium mainman Blake Judd onto proto-goth punkers Joy Division and early Interpol recordings, influencing the change. They even toured with post-metal instrumentalists Pelican and Birthday Party crashers Daughters this year. Is this a conspiracy to kill black metal?

"We haven't done corpsepaint in years," says Judd, who's just completed a run of US dates with said unlikely tourmates. "I'm not into people showing up to my shows and cutting themselves up and shit… We're not out there to scare the club owners into thinking that the fans that come out to see music like what we perform are gonna leave blood and broken glass all over the place, which is what happens at a lot of these extreme metal shows. There's a time and a place for that, but we're totally over that and don't want to be affiliated with that anymore."

Furthermore, after antifascist activists effectively killed their European tour with Virginian neo-Nazis Grand Belial's Key, the apolitical Nachtmystium realized the last thing they want is an association like that. Judd feels there's too much tightrope walking in the genre, and although he's not changing his music, he's also steering clear of anything that would prevent him from reaching as many people as possible. Also, to his surprise, Daughters' and Pelican's fans seemed mostly open to his group, although he says Nachtmystium's fans would "stick around for 10 minutes of [Daughters'] set and then they'd be gone." But for Judd, any progress is good progress, and he's dedicated to distributing black metal on his own Battle Kommand records. After all, he'd discovered black metal through corresponding with people like Emperor's Bård "Faust" Eithun during his imprisonment via snail mail, the real old school.

"It was nice to not just be a part of Internet black metal shit," he says. "That's why we don't care anymore. It's easy to go on MySpace and put on your corpsepaint and cut yourself up and take pictures of it. Fucking stupid, man. That's not what it's about… The whole idea of this underground, ultra-extreme, old school way of doing thingsit can't exist when you're doing that."

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