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Kids, this is one of the most original death metal albums ever created. Stunning technicality, keyboards, and Satanic themes never sounded so good. If you think that bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth invented keyboards and metal...listen to this. Nocturnus utterly annihilates both those bands, as well as the current powder puff shred "metal" (this term used extremely lightly) in a furious maelstrom of cybernetically reanimated Sumerian demons!
There's a simple base of crushing, Slayer inspired riffs from the opening song "Lake of Fire" and "Neolithic." Add Louie Panzer's keyboards on here, as an accompaniment to, not as a substitute for, guitar playing, and the music takes on a strange, synthetic dimension. When the guitars go off on a shredding tangent, like on the chorus of "Destroying the Manger," or "Andromeda Strain," they sound like an army of flesh tearing zombie droids from a black hole rather than light powder puff noodling.
The soloing here is a real treat. Both Sean McNenny and Mike Davis (especially Mike Davis) can fucking shred. And not just wild, Trey Azagthoth tapping, but actual shredding, and they don't sound weak or like show offs either. The placement of solos is also key, as they pop up even in some choruses, little one or two note peaks, to really terrific effect (the chorus of "BC/AD"). It's kind of reminscent of old blues songs...if B.B. King were actually a brain devouring cyborg reanimated by the spirits of the Ancient Ones.
Mike Browning's throaty bark is present throughout the album, but on some tracks he is backed up by Kam Lee of Massacre. Kam's vocals are the typical cookie monster roar, but used appropriately to keep some sense of gravity to the music. Mike's vocals definately suit the music more, keeping the spacy, airy vibe going.
Mike's drumming is surprisingly technical. On Morbid Angel's Abominations of Desolation, he was a little sloppy in an Abbadon way (which was great for that album), and on Thresholds he has a bit more of simplistic power to his drumming. Even in After Death, his new band, he doesn't go completely apeshit, pulverizing everything from the hi-hat to his rototoms in a techinical whirlwind. Amazing that he could still perform the vocals from the work out on this album!
The shit part of this album is the bottom end. It is NON EXISTENT! From what I read in certain interviews, bassist Jeff Estes didn't come into practice before this album, so when it came time to play on the album, his bass sound was absolute shit. Instead of re-recording the tracks, they simply took them down in the mix. What a shame, as songs like "BC/AD" and "Neolithic" have a very heavy groove, and a few other technical passages in "Andromeda Strain" and "Droid Sector" would have really benefitted from good bass playing. Imagine what Roger Patterson or even Steve Digiorgio could have done for this album...ah, but that could be asking way too much!
Quite a good production job was done on this, as the guitars and drumming are quite technical, but then sometimes go to a simple chugging. I can only guess that this was a real nightmare for the boys at Morrisound, who were used to producing bands like Deicide and Massacre. Then along comes Nocturnus with keyboards, ultra technical, layered guitars, and bass tracks that sucked. Kudos to those guys, and aspirin for the headaches that were probably induced at the mixing board.
Despite being a very techinal band with a sci-fi edge, Nocturnus still brings out the best in death metal and keep it evil feeling, unlike other bands that destroy things with overabundant use of keyboards, happy solos, and female vocals. What's more, the technicality doesn't ruin the music, and you can still tap your toe or bang your head to this stuff.
That is, if the flesh eating droids don't get you first!