Laying bare one’s addiction for the sake of art is a thin line to walk. Nachtmystium‘s Blake Judd has learned that firsthand. After writing much of the acclaimed Black Meddle diptych about his struggles with heroin, he became a pariah for ripping off his merch-buying fans, inviting speculation that the payments he stole were for drugs. The World We Left Behind is the first Nachtmystium record since that PR firestorm, and while Judd would like it to put the focus back on his music, its numerous failures make that impossible.
It’s difficult to tell if Judd is no longer interested in black metal or if he has simply forgotten how to write it. The guitar tone here is unmistakably Nachtmystium’s, but it’s too often forced into clumsy pop-metal structures, as on the limp “Fireheart” and the nü-metal-tinged “Tear You Down.” The electronic flourishes that many found inviting on the Black Meddle records return as apparently random bleeps and bloops, useless window dressing to already lean compositions. The female vocals on “Epitaph for a Dying Star” sound like Judd’s attempt to recreate his beloved Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky,” but his own distorted monotone disrupts the flow.
A few good riffs dot the album, like the searing opening to “Voyager,” but they’re invariably lost in the slog of songs that drag on for too long. The World We Left Behind suggests that 2012′s very solid Silencing Machine was fool’s gold. If this is the real post-Black Meddle Nachtmystium, it might be safe to start ignoring them.