Back in the early 90s Nocturnus appeared with a debut album, “The Key” which in part revolutionised death metal due to its progressive strains but more importantly it adopted the use of keyboards which at the time would have been considered sacrilege since practically all death metal comprised of the usual instruments. Granted the keyboards were used for manifesting effects and atmosphere but the intent was clear and the album is considered to be as important as any other death metal classic you care to mention. Added to that the album was conceptualised around a being, Satan in this case, time travelling back to 0BC to kill Jesus so that Christianity would not develop. You can use your imagination for the rest or check out the album. Fast forward nearly 30 years and this debut effort under the banner of Nocturnus AD continues where “The Key” terminated by introducing a character called Dr Magus who is ravaged with disease and follows this characters journey through eight complex highly charged tracks encompassing masses of atmosphere and a potent deathly demolition. At the helm as ever is Mike Browning, ably assisted by members of After Death the band Browning formed after leaving Nocturnus.
So after all that backing information it’s onto what the band has crafted for the newer generation of death metal fans and it is fair to say that Browning has deliberately gone for a continuation of the style and structure laid down on “The Key” as the album opens with “Seizing The Throne”, where the sci-fi like keyboard strains trickle into life creating an atmospheric backdrop before the track stamps its authority with a typical death metal riff. The keyboards are integral to this album, instead of just for effects, here they breathe tangible life into every song, incorporating subtle melodies that enhance the mood continually. As ever the drum work blankets the album, with various fills, cymbal adornments used to texture the opening song and throughout. “Paleolithic” crushes into existence with a drum fill intro section that eventually shifts into a half blasted segue accompanied by fret blazing lead breaks, a feature that embellishes every song on the album to great effect.
“Antechamber” continues the bombardment as the riffing has a pandemonium like feel due to the speed, only reined in when the drums adopt a double kick role, As the keyboards here are fully emphasised and possess an almost Egyptian tone, as the song pummels relentlessly. That Egyptian aura appears in “The Return Of The Lost Key”, an epically crafted song, festooned with keyboard effects and an emotive solo on the opening phase. The ensuing riff break is fabulous and followed by the opulent keyboards that enhance the song hugely with melodrama yet here there is that chaotic nature courtesy of the drum work which is elaborate and densely delivered. The strange keyboard start to “Aeon Of The Ancient Ones” is eerie to say the least, it’s opening twisted and contorted melody fits the aura of this album perfectly as the song produces a dark, ominous atmosphere as the vocals have a cleanish growled tone that fit the music well if lacking a little variety.
Closing this epic release is the instrumental “Number 9”, a much slower tune, doom laden with its sombre keyboards the song is saturated with charisma, especially with the superb lead work and closing keyboard solo. This album whilst under the moniker of Nocturnus AD is a natural continuation of where “The Key” left off, the ideas, the atmosphere and overall delivery succinctly follow that release and the result is excellent even though the albums are 29 years apart.
(8.5/10 Martin Harris)