“Dark metal” is an attempt to categorize that exists only to frustrate and annoy people like me. Is it gothic metal? Is it DSBM? Is it a nice way of saying “this band is not cool enough to be black metal?” According to last.fm, Moonspell, Bethlehem, Rotting Christ, and Agalloch fall into the “dark metal” category. I think it’s only fair to say the term applies subjectively through each artist’s individual interpretation of the word “dark.”
Nachtblut isn’t shy about its “dark metal” identity. Hailing from Osnabrück, Germany, the quintet had apparently amassed an underground following before snagging a recording contract. Napalm Records re-released “Antik”, which was originally distributed by the band themselves in 2009. Aesthetically, vocalist Askeroth, bassist and vocalist Sacerdos, drummer Skoll, guitarist Greig and keyboardist Lymania look like European steampunk gone insane. I expected Nachtblut’s “Antik” to be as dark as Dani Filth’s eye shadow. It was all there: the keyboards, the token female vocalist, and the ghost of Mortiis. In short, this was the textbook essentials of lame gothy symphonic bullshit.
…and then I translated the lyrics.
Do you want to know what‘s really dark about Nachtblut? Vocalist Askeroth has been spitting out graphic tales of necrophilia, paedophilia and the New Testament right under your nose. The lyrical content of both “Antik” and 2007’s “Das Erste Abendmahl” is dripping with serious religious issues and the blood of martyred Christians. Because fuck Satan.
So there is way more to this band than their leather and fishnet surface. Nachtblut tackles complex personal and historical dilemmas while looking like a German explosion of Hot Topic and Dimmu. Not an easy feat. And it sounds better than it looks.
The first track, ‘Antik,’ is hilariously awesome. It mindfucks you with innocent piano and ambient vocals before Askeroth starts snarling in that signature German growl. The entire thing is like some kind of disturbed lullaby that becomes viciously endearing. It’s ADORABLE.
‘Ijobs Botschaft’ (Job’s Message) introduces some of the heavier moments of Bible study. The riffs throughout the album are classic black and heavy metal, which is a good thing. But this is where “acquired taste” comes in. Those catchy riffs are constantly traded with prettier passages of soft keyboards and symphonic vocal noodling. If that’s your thing, you’ll probably love this album.
‘Des Menschen Kunst Blindheit Zu Säen’ is the most politically charged track on “Antik”, and the heaviest. Moving at a quicker pace than most of the other tracks, it directly slams centuries of tradition. ‘Kreuzritter,’ the closer (apart from the bonus tracks), is Nachtblut making clear their stance as corpse-painted crusaders, possibly for Christ or for more synth: the last word uttered is ‘Amen.’ Either way, Askeroth is not shy about his position concerning religious beliefs and practice, and it takes some balls to admit that on a metal album without being all 666. Then again, he is German.
This brand of “dark metal” isn’t my thing. Objectively, however, “Antik” is not a terrible album. The riffs are catchy, the production is good, and the guy has something meaningful to say. The instrumentation does get a bit repetitive at times, and also a little ridiculous. The drums sound as if they were shoved in a closet for being too loud during mass. Nachtblut deserves to bark just as loud as it bites. For a band that tosses around sex with corpses, and Bathory references, they don’t sound very tough, but maybe that’s not the idea. Nachtblut’s claim to “dark metal” fame runs deeper. Because nothing is darker than the intelligent discourse of relevant social politics.