[The Cleveland Scene and the Cleveland Free Times are merging into one paper in two weeks or so; I'm hoping to still be a contributor when the process is complete. In the meantime, here's the last thing I wrote for the possibly outgoing music editor.]
Nachtmystium returns in a different shade of metal
Black metal is a harsh mistress. Between the genre's reputation for attracting violent criminals and racists — like the murderers and church-burners who came with the pioneering National Socialist black metal scene in Norway* — and its fans' intolerance for sonic innovation (particularly when that innovation takes the form of melody), you have to wonder why anyone would even want to be associated with it.
Let's not even get into the whole "corpse paint" thing, where grown men daub their faces like they're overly obsessive Kiss fans vying for a role in Ghosts of Mars. Plus, bands and fans alike sport leather-and-spikes ensembles that even Rob Halford would find excessive.
Chicago native Blake "Azentrius" Judd has been stretching the boundaries of this combative, alienating genre for years as leader of Nachtmystium. In the process, he's won a surprisingly diverse base of fans.
"Black metal is only limiting if you allow it to limit you," says Judd. "We do not feel that music that categorically would be deemed black metal has to fit some cookie-cutter mold. There's no freedom in that mentality. Herding and preconceived notions of what things should and shouldn't sound like, for any musician in any genre, are purely limitations and are a sign of weakness and fear of expanding upon one's own ideas and truly having an individualistic expression."[Read the rest here.]
*Please note: This elision was performed by the editor, not me. I am well aware of the difference between the early Norwegian black metal scene and the later NSBM scene.