Monday, 12 March 2012

NOCTURNUS - The Key (1990)

01  Lake Of Fire
02  Standing In Blood
03  Visions From Beyond The Grave
04  Neolithic
05  Undead Journey
06  Before Christ / After Death
07  Andromeda Strain
08  Droid Sector
09  Destroying The Manger
10  Empire Of The Sands

Nocturnus was formed in Tampa, Florida in 1987 by drummer/vocalist Mike Browning (formerly of Morbid Angel). They were known for their science-fiction themed lyrics and use of keyboards, both of which were virtually unknown in extreme metal. They released three albums and one EP, finally disbanding around 2002 (although they played a select number of dates in 2008).

Aggressive growling, atmospheric keyboards and soaring guitars is what Nocturnus deliver on their Earache Records debut album from 1990. Back then there was no other band within their genre who used keyboards the way they did and they were also pretty unique in using science fiction based lyrics. The Key features a bit of a concept behind the music, describing the exploits of a robot who travels back through time to murder jesus and halt the spread of christianity. Can't argue with that!

Even though this album may seem a little chaotic at a first glance you quickly realize that there is much control and structure behind the compositions. Musically, this can be compared to bands like Death, Sepultura, Possessed, Morbid Angel and the like. This entirely avoids blastbeats, and stylistically is more old-school Death Metal, made technical and with synthesizers adding to the atmosphere at points. If the band hadn't of broken up in 1993 they would probably have been one of the leading bands on the American death metal scene even today. It is amazing to see such brilliant technique and maturity together with relentless aggression on a debut release. This album is a landmark in the history of death metal and if you are into this type of music you should not have missed out on it. Even though they wouldn't be seen as a groundbreaking band today they were definitely one back then. A loud production makes for a loud listening experience. Stand-out tracks: "Lake Of Fire", "Neolithic", "Empire Of The Sands".

Jeff Estes's bass tracks may have been 100% recorded by Mike Davis, based on a Mike Browning interview Jeff showed up to the recording already drunk and hardly able to track the songs, stating also that Mike recorded most of the bass tracks, however it is unknown what tracks Jeff recorded, if any.

*Also released on splatter vinyl, limited to 2000 copies.

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