When not shamelessly ripping off fans and bandmates with impunity (according to former collaborator Neill Jameson and many disgruntled fans) by selling merchandise that didn’t exist or selling the rights to albums he didn’t own to make money to buy drugs, Blake Judd was more commonly known to be the “mastermind” behind Chicago black metal squad Nachtmystium. Whether he was truly the mastermind behind the long-running project has been brought into question (Jameson alluded in a lengthy article written about Blake that the majority of his music was written by others, not him.) no one can deny that the end results of many of the band’s recording endeavors have been stellar, even milestones of the black metal genre. The experimentation that started with Instinct: Decay and continued with the groundbreaking “Black Meddle” series show that someone, Blake or not, was thinking about what could be achieved within the black metal genre on a higher level. And although their previous album Silencing Machine did not expand upon the experimentation of the two Black Meddle installments, it was still a satisfyingly grim and aggressive record that had just enough electronic flourishes to distinguish itself from straight-ahead black metal. Hyped as the final Nachtmystium album, The World We Left Behind should have been a farewell as equally ambitious and exciting as anything else in their recent output. But when presented with the final product, that sadly doesn’t describe it.
Blake and his band of all-new members tend to play it safe on most of these 9 tracks. While there is certainly nothing wrong with the metal-on-acid experimentation of “Tear You Down” or the catchy rock-n-roll of “On the Other Side”, most of the other tracks on The World We Left Behind do nothing to stand out from the bare basics established on previous Nachtmystium albums. By-the-numbers tremolo guitars and raspy vocals are left alone without any seasoning, and as odd as this may sound, this record would have benefitted from a more lo-fi production approach. The sound here is clean and clear, not to be expected from black metal of this kind, and that leaves this album with an unfortunately bland taste. The songwriting leaves a lot to be desired as well. Much of the album is a standard verse-chorus-bridge-chorus type affair, and in the case of “Voyager” in particular, the chorus alone is irritatingly long. The album’s longest track “Into the Endless Abyss” also suffers from songwriting problems stemming from its static tempo with slightly varying riffs playing over it for eight and a half minutes straight. The riffs also fail to deliver for the most part, leaving no emotional impact or giving off a strong sense of feral aggression that would be much appreciated on any black metal record. In all, “generic” is what comes to mind from listening to this album front to back.
However, it’s the lyrics that prove to be this album’s biggest offense. The majority of them center around topics of overcoming huge life obstacles and how Blake has “made it to the other side”, leading one to believe that he has finally overcome his heroin addiction and is now a stronger, better person because of it. How wonderful this would be if it were true, because it’s not. The whole promotion of this album through the Nachtmystium facebook page was a scam, the same kind of scamming Blake has been doing for years prior to this album. So no, Blake has not made it to the other side, and if the aforementioned Neill Jameson is a trustworthy source, “Blake spends his time between a notable drug motel and the streets these days, just waiting for that check to come and clear.” As wonderful as previous Nachtmystium albums have been, this one will not be one that fans will look back upon with fondness or admiration. It’s a slightly above average black metal album at best that perpetuates something that we all know is a lie, and no one should ever fall for it.