As a black metal band, trying to make your mark in 2014 when releasing your debut album must be a pretty tough gig, but that’s exactly what Noctem Cursis are doing with ‘Nocturnal Frost’ here. There are of course multiple ways of making your mark, and this French six-piece (yep, none of your one man bedroom black metal here) go down the route of wearing their influences so vividly on their sleeves that they try to recall the horripilating, frosty spine-tingles you felt the first time you hear the classics of the genre.
Do they succeed? Occasionally. There’s a decent amount of ‘Stormblast’ era Dimmu Borgir in their sound thanks to their use of billowing cold keyboards, whilst never letting them overpower the riffage which is still clearly audible and at the forefront of their sound. The abundance of cold guitar arpeggios and minor key frostiness reminds me of ‘Shadowthrone’ era Satyricon and their moribund synth-work reminds me pleasantly of Gehenna’s early black metal coldness. The problem is, since I’ve named some of the luminaries of the scene right there –does it match the quality and consistency of the aforementioned bands and releases stroke for stroke? No, but then not a lot does these days when it comes down to it. ‘Nocturnal Frost’ is very much intent on pulling on those cold and frosty memories from the back of your head, hoping to tug at the right chord to really hit the jackpot. Everything seems to be present and correct, cold riffage which tweaks at progressiveness thanks to its epic nature, plentiful melodies throughout, throaty rasping vocals and sweeping synth – it’s just missing the x factor to really get the blood pumping and the hackles raised. In fact, I’d go as far as saying as it’s pretty painfully safe and generic at times unfortunately.
As an album, it’s packed with melody and is pretty commercial in black metal terms (particularly with the production with is actually fairly warm considering the coldness of the riffs). Whilst they never manage to ape the best, they certainly have made an enjoyable enough piece of work to keep any black metaller sucked in, even if they’re unlikely to return on a regular basis. Noctem Cursis are certainly a band to look out for come album number two, but they’ll never pull much further than a twinge of interest with ‘Nocturnal Frost’ from even the most vehemently inexorable imbiber of blackness.
(6/10 Lars Christiansen)