Concord Music Hall
Jeremy Wagner
Lovers Lane

Judd’s Dread

| January 30, 2008 | 1 Comment

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My first face-to-face encounter with Blake Judd didn’t leave me with a very good impression of the Nachtmystium frontman. In the summer of 2003 I had just moved to Chicago and was living half a block from Metal Haven’s old Lakeview location. Homesick, overwhelmed, clueless, and friendless, I dropped by the store a few times a week, hoping to connect with some like-minded music fans. On one of these particular visits I asked then-employee Judd if they had the most recent Black Label Society CD. He shot me one of the dirtiest looks I’ve ever received, like I had just asked for a Bell Biv Devoe record, before answering “I don’t think we carry that band.” In reality, an older BLS record was already on the shelf. The shame (sorry I thought BLS’ Blessed Hellride was good – fuck me) was too much: It was months before I stepped foot in Metal Haven again. It wasn’t until early last year, after exchanging ‘Mystium-related e-mails with him, I discovered the Zakk Wylde-hater and super-nice Nachtmystium dude were one in the same!

Fortunately, my second face-to-face with Judd, an interview last December at Volume Studios, where the band (Judd, guitarist Jeff Wilson, bassist Zion Meagher (who has since left the group), and session drummer Tony Laureano) were recording their Century Media debut, Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1 with Sanford Parker. Turns out Judd is a real sweetheart if you don’t discuss Black Label Society.

Mosh: So how did you guys hook up with Tony [Dimmu Borgir, 1349, Nile]?

Blake Judd: Ah . . . when we toured with 1349, he played with them, and we just bro’d down with him on that tour. He is a funny guy, we got along with him right away, and at the end of the trip, totally out of nowhere, he offered up his services: “If you ever need anybody for a tour, a fucking show, a record, just keep me in mind, and we’ll keep in touch on Myspace.” I was kind of like “OK” [laughs], and then, ironically, two weeks later we lost our old drummer. So I was like “All right, it’s perfectly fresh timing,” so I hit Tony up right away and was like “Would you like to get involved?” and he was like “Fuck yeah.” But he was really busy doing all the session drums for Dimmu Borgir ’cause I guess they had trouble with Hellhammer or whatever. So obviously, he’s making a hell of a lot more money over there doing that, and he hasn’t done anything with us until this, but we just got in touch by Myspace or e-mail or whatever, figured everything out, bought him a plane ticket, flew him out, and it worked out really well.

Jeff Wilson: One of the best things about Tony is he really wanted to make this record interesting. He didn’t just show up and was like, “Uh, give me a paycheck.”

BJ: Yeah, he didn’t show up to play what we told him we thought he should play. He really thought out each part, and just his level of precision . . . he’s got a good name for himself for a good reason, because he plays well. So tracks that I, not being a drummer, he would be like “Man I’ve got to go back and do that again.” I would have kept it if it would have been my call. But he’s like ‘No,’ and you hear it after he goes back to it and it’s just like “Fuck, you weren’t kidding.” He really just belts it out.

M: After the success of Instinct: Decay what’s it like to have serious expectations on the new record?

BJ: I never expect anything. We almost cancelled Instinct: Decay. We didn’t like the way it sounded, even after it was mastered. It was a serious . . . [at this point Judd is interrupted by band “consigliere” Chris Black (Superchrist, Pharaoh), who jokingly urges him not to tell the story]. No, no, I’m not ashamed of it at all, it was just such a weird-sounding record. We questioned it, like “Man, what the fuck is this going to do to whatever little mojo we got going on?” Finally, I was like “Fuck it; I like it,” and put it out. I had no expectations for it. I thought it was going to get torn apart, but it didn’t. I have no expectations for this one either.

I really don’t know what to expect. I hope it goes well [laughs], if it doesn’t, I’ll have something to listen to that I want to hear.

M: What is Nachtmystium’s current relationship to the black metal scene?

BJ: You mean the scene we came from? The super-underground, über-cult shit?

M: Yeah.

BJ: Those people don’t like us anymore. But you know what? Those people, that’s a revolving door of people that are 18 to 22-years old. I was one of those people when I was 18-years old and was before that. I was a fuckin’ super hardliner; I didn’t listen to anything that wasn’t made on a 4-track. But you evolve and start listening to more [music].

M: Have you outgrown it?

BJ: Yeah. That kind of music, especially that angle of it, attracts people who are uncomfortable with themselves. I was one of those people – a teenager. The attitude is still there, it’s just all these insecure idiots trying to uphold this “I’m an elitist, arrr, I’m at my mom’s house.” Fuck you, dude. Go get a fucking job. Drive a Lexus when you’re 20, and then you’re an elitist. Fuck off. I chuckle at black metal. I don’t chuckle at it all, but I chuckle at that mentality. And I laugh at myself five years ago when I was that guy.

I totally come from that school of black metal, that’s my shit. And I’m a caveman guitar player so I do still write in that style to a certain degree, but . . .

CB: The presentation is totally different.

BJ: Yeah, the presentation, the approach, the intensity – ideologically it’s totally off par with that. And also, out of the respect for the bands that are from that side of things, that have stood by their guns, that have been this way [since the beginning] like Catharsis or Deathspell Omega, there’s certain aspects of that integrity that they maintain that allow them to exist and not be this joke, like a lot of that style is, or the way I would look at a demo of something some kid sent me a link to: “Here listen to my demo on the Internet, and there’s this picture of me my girlfriend took in my basement at my parents’ house.”

We don’t want to be tied to that. We drink beer and play cards [laughs]. We’re just not those guys and don’t want to be associated with it.

Assassins‘ release date, originally scheduled for April, has been pushed back (likely early June), but Nachtmystium will release the Worldfall EP this spring.

OUT NOW: Sequel records are risky business. Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell II? Yikes. Bat Out Of Hell III? Only slightly better. Metallica’s Reload? Horrible (then again, so was Load). Venom’s Metal Black? Not so good. Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime 2? God awful. Gamma Ray chief Kai Hansen should be well aware of the risks, given he was the creative force behind Helloween’s first Keeper Of The Seven Keys sequel, and maybe that’s why Land Of The Free II (Steamhammer/SPV) is so good: Hansen learned what pitfalls to avoid. Considered Gammy Ray’s defining effort, Land Of The Free is a feat to match, which II does, and maybe even tops. Hansen doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to tie the two albums together, in fact, the cohesiveness between the two lies mostly in style – a return to the group’s balls-out power metal – not lyrical content. But you’ll figure this out simply by hearing “Into The Storm” and “From The Ashes,” the two turbocharged songs that open the album. Nearly two decades deep, and Gamma Ray sound like they’re just reaching their peak.

A piece of heaven: mosh@illinoisentertainer.com.

– Trevor Fisher

Category: Caught In A Mosh, Columns, Monthly

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  1. Brian Smith says:

    Hi Trevor
    My name is Brian and I came in to Metal Haven when they were in Lakeview.
    All the employees were real a**holes and I told them how I felt about them.
    Marc the owner was cool later on.
    I almost stopped shopping there completely!
    Its not you.
    I came in there store with
    Valuable vinyl like Morbid Angel Abominations to Desolations and Sepultura original first 2 releases.
    I accepted a sh**tty offer was laughed at I told them to f*ck
    off!
    I started shopping there again because I don’t hold grudges.
    Everything worked out.
    If you spend money there, you should be treated with respect.
    Nachtmystium is another Black Metal band with narrow minded opinions about nothing.
    Recycled B.S.
    Take Care
    Brian

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