The term “black metal” can mean almost anything these days — sublime post-rock (with screaming), bracing post-punk (with croaking), experimental sound collage (with portentous spoken word), and, occasionally, wordless cosmic twaddle (with synths and not much else). All of these things borrow from black metal, but none really embodies the true spirit of black metal in the traditional sense. (“The True Spirit Of Black Metal” sounds like a sacrilegious holiday musical in the making, doesn’t it?) Orthodox black metal, on the other hand, stands in opposition to black metal dabbling. If black metal has a cold, self-contained center, it’s orthodox black metal, which is sonically ominous, universally Satanic, and disconcertingly intense in its commitment to impenetrable ideology — which is what makes it so fascinating to explore.
Nightbringer, an orthodox black metal band from Colorado, play this style as well as anyone. Previous albums sounded a bit like Deathspell Omega due to both bands’ use of dissonant suspended chords, though Nightbringer’s latest, Ego Dominus Tuus (which translates to “I am your Lord”), drops the dissonance in favor of broad-stroke bombast and piercing upper-fret melodics, and the change is welcome. “Et Nox Illuminatio Mea In Deliciis Meis” is a mouthful in more ways than one: It’s a Latin translation of a quote from Psalms (“and night shall be my light in my pleasures”), and it’s nine minutes of Satanic rumination set to triumphant cacophony. Part of what makes orthodox black metal so … orthodox, is its dedication to the subject matter. Essentially, it’s the complete inversion of religious music, but no less spiritual. There’s a morbid appeal to especially fervid art like this, even if you — like me — believe in nothing so abstract. I have no idea what Nightbringer are screaming about here, nor do I need to. You can hear the conviction behind every bent note. Listen.