I forgot about the ambitious but flawed works of Pensées Nocturnes rather quickly after having heard of them for the first time. Back in the day, DMU contributors wanted them to, amongst other things, “use more oboe“. Parts of the upcoming À boire et à manger have since been released on SoundCloud; if the samples are to believed, then Pensées Nocturnes did not, in fact, end up adding more oboe parts to their music. If anything, it sounds as if their overall musical approach has moved away from the symphonic black metal they were famous for, and more towards some sort of snooty avant-garde cafe black metal. It’d take further listening for me to actually confirm this; À boire et à manger will officially release on January 16th, so it’s presumably only a matter of time to determine whether this band has gone Krallice on us.
A cult classic of death metal, Nocturnus’ The Key often elicits outwardly moderate yet intense praise from connoisseurs of the genre. Reading online reviews and commentaries on the album one realizes that these praises are based on a three points. The first is the prominent use of keyboards throughout the album, then there is the ubiquitous, ripping guitar solos and last, its supposed resemblance to Morbid Angel, which is mainly based on the fact that Mike Browning took charge of the vocals on Nocturnus but also on the so-called thrash/speed-death amalgam this style is supposed to be. Let’s shoot each of these down one at a time.
The much-mentioned “pioneering” death metal with keyboards is an example of how too much of the metal critique is bent on praising novelty. Not only is the use of keyboards in the album amateur but it is often gimmicky, half of the time being out of place, the other half being completely extra and unnecessary — not strongly integrated into the music except in a very few places (“Neolithic” has a gesture in the solo section that shows promise). There are very good reasons why you do not hear keyboards often in death metal, and it goes beyond the fact that most death metal musicians are not learned enough to integrate them and would rather just make “pummeling and brutal riffs”. Style has to accommodate instrument choice. As it stands, The Key only crams keyboards wherever it can, but it is little more than a gimmick. Overall, a metalhead should look up to In the Nightside Eclipse for a better example of keyboards in underground metal.
On to the much lauded guitar solos in this album. What can I say? Besides being mindlessly infantile and trivial in their transparent scale runs, the solos throughout this album are, like the keyboard sections, often out of place and come off as being only superimposed on top of the rest of the music rather than composed within it. On their own and apart from the discussion on whether they fit into the music or not, it is not the messiness of the solos but their complete lack of character that would give one a good reason to ditch them and never think about them again.
Regarding Nocturnus sounding like a “Morbid Angel on steroids” or “an improved version of Morbid Angel”, we can say it comes from extremely superficial comparisons and a complete lack of discernment concerning composition quality. While Nocturnus perfectly exemplifies the brand of speed metal that wants to be death metal but is not quite there yet, early Morbid Angel was known as “death-thrash” only as a result of the audience’s ignorance. In this respect and given that The Key was released in 1990, when death metal had already solidified as a genre, we can say Nocturnus’ music is retrograde gimmick. The distinction between the death metal of Morbid Angel and the harsh, late-speed metal of Nocturnus lies in the phrase construction of the first that becomes the central development of the music, while the latter produces riffs to carry the voice that end in hooks. Death metal is progressive-symphonic phrasal music, speed metal is still heavy metal of a pop nature. Rather than compare them to Morbid Angel it would be more fitting to compare them to that other famous retrograde and gimmicky act called Death.
All in all, The Key still captures the imagination despite its amateur character and its great faults. I believe the reason for this is that in spite of its immature musical notions, its concept is very clear and this comes through in a very strong manner, outshining the blunders it houses. For the sake of metal, its future and the education of the audience, it is important to give albums like this their correct place. This is enjoyable and fun in much the same way that Sharknado is. You know it is silly, you know its appeal comes from its exaggerations and awkwardness, but a focused awkwardness with a clear idea in mind.
Masturbate on the throne of god
Crucifixion of a thousand saints
Stakes are mounted with the heads of angels
Nocturnal spells are casted,
Heaven begins to bleed
Labeled under the very loose term melodic death metal, Spanish band Mistweaver write a versatile power metal with mainstream sensibilities and growling vocals. An experienced band sharing the stage with many prominent acts such as Suffocation, Enslaved, Exodus, Grave and Sodom, Mistweaver is onto their 5th full-length album.
The versatility in style mentioned earlier refers to a range in riffing that oscillates between straight up heavy metal to heavy-doom to acoustic passages that come out of nowhere topped with typical folk melodies ala Wintersun. But these guys are more accessible than the black-touched Wintersun, making heavier use of headbanging chugs and simple melodies. The use of keyboards is similar to the role given to them in In the Nightside Eclipse. Some sections touch on the more opera rock – oriented brand of power metal, the so-called symphonic power metal.
Mistweaver is the sort of band that has stayed on top of their game by doing everything that is expected of them. They have been active and playing with big names, they have put out an average of one album every three years (long enough for the judicious fan not to fall for a fast and cheap album, but not so long so that said fan does not conclude that the band has gone rusty), and their music has every single trait a fan of the general power metal and related genres might wish to find in an album of this kind.
Early death metal barely made it out of the shadow of speed metal before. We call it speed metal, not thrash, because it was a direct extension of NWOBHM using some punk technique, not an outright punk hybrid like thrash. Speed metal represents one of the most varied sub-genres in metal, running the gamut from percussive (Exodus) through traditional (Metallica) and all the way to adventurous stuff like Voivod, Anacrusis, Coroner and Sacrifice. It is in that latter category that The Science of Horror begins.
This demo re-issue will be — for now — limited to 100 copies pressed to vinyl that incorporate two demos, The Science of Horror (1988) and Nocturnus (1987). These show both a band looking for a balance between the early death/speed hybrids and its future as a technical death metal band, and the personal vision that Mike Browning has been refining since this time through the present day with his current band, After Death. This vision unites the progressive with morbid rock and extremity, aiming for a theatrical presentation as much as musical obscurity, and never afraid — unlike too many prog bands — to use a primitive riff where it is effective. Like many progressive-inspired bands, there is a high degree of internal variation in these demos, Nocturnus and After Death, used like an ancient storyteller might use an extensive vocabulary. The theatrical nature of this approach means that the songs on these demos, which are mostly duplicative, take an atmospheric approach to a genre in transition that was otherwise more inclined toward all-ahead aggression. But like Anacrusis, Voivod and Coroner, Nocturnus adapted its songs to use both death metal technique and speed metal but creating a sense of rhythm of its own that emphasized frequent transitions and complex patterns without drifting into other known genres.
Several of the song segments used here show similarity to what appeared on Morbid Angel’s early work, notably its 1986 Abominations of Desolation, and feature the same flexible rhythm that nonetheless approximates the chorus rhythm without doing so in trope, leaving plenty of space for instruments to work independently. Like speed metal, much of this material aims for discrete chords in repetitive patterns, but especially on the second demo, use of tremolo to create smooth transitions gives this material a new aura of mystery and suspension of belief. As a document of early death metal, The Science of Horror both emphasizes the creative possibilities of metal at the time and reminds us how weirdness was once more front and center and how it did the genre well. On another level, this music provides pleasurable listening at the nexus not only of two genres but also several compositional styles, and the change from the first to later demo shows the incorporation of keys in the way that would later define Nocturnus and be expanded to become a fundamental part of the technique as a way of creating spacious, atmospheric death metal. With any luck, this pressing of the demos will see CD release later this year, as despite being the same tracks twice this recording serves well for casual listening as well as historical examination of death metal.
Tracklist The Science of Horror Demo 2 (1988)
1. Before Christ – After Death
2. Standing in Blood
4. Undead Journey Nocturnus Demo 1 (1987)
6. B.C. – A.D.
7. The Entity
8. Unholy Fury
Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals
Mike Davis: Guitars
Louis Panzer: Keyboards
Jeff Estes: Bass
Gino Marino: Guitars
Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals
Richard Bateman: Bass
Vincent Crowley: Guitars
Gino Marino: Guitars
Long known as the adroit-fingered riffman for punk-black metal band Darkthrone, Nocturno Culto was once seen as a dark, mysterious and threatening figure but has adopted a more open public persona over the last decade.
As part of this, he is launching a re-vamped heavy metal style band named Gift of Gods which will be entirely his music separate from Darkthrone. The music sounds like Celtic Frost’s Cold Lake given a speed metal treatment and with the more complex riff transitions of earlier Celtic Frost.
Nocturno Culto, who forms one-half of the nefarious duo known as Darkthrone, has a long history of side projects. Among other contributions, he worked out the intricate riffcraft behind Satyricon’s Nemesis Divina, making it a favorite in that band’s catalog.
Now he has embarked on a new side project which is a pure traditional heavy metal band called Gift of Gods. Gift of Gods will release its debut mini-album Receive on Peaceville Records on November 5, 2013.
Commented Nocturno Culto, “Finally, the mini-album is done. Gift Of Gods has been a great ride for me. I don’t want this to end now, so I will most likely work on new material. Thanks to my partner in crime, K.A. Hubred, we got to rehearse during the last two years. What to expect? I have no idea how to describe this, but it’s metal for sure.”
Receive was performed and recorded by Culto and Hubred at Culto’s home studio, and mixed and mastered by Jack Control at Enormous Door, who recently worked with Nocturno on Darkthrone’s The Underground Resistance.
So far the only reports tell us this will be traditional heavy metal with a wide range of influences and that it will lead toward the melodic side of things. This EP/mini-album will be a half-hour of material including a cover of “Looking For an Answer” originally by obscure Swedish 80s band Universe.
Classic Florida progressive death metal band Nocturnus, famous for spidery riffs interlaced with outer space keyboards, dominated the metal world’s appetite for bizarre and uncompromising music back in the 1990s, but their music is now out of print.
Their label, Earache Records, wants to re-issue the Nocturnus classic Thresholds, but there’s a catch: the fans have to pay for it in advance. Unlike the usual underground pre-orders, where individual fans order the album and when there’s enough cash the label takes it to print, Earache is using a Kickstarter page to launch the funding request.
If demand is met, Thresholds will be pressed on 100 clear, 200 green, 300 purple and 400 black LPs with the recording taken from the original DAT master. For more information, visit the Nocturnus Thresholds re-issue Kickstarter page.
We previously posted an article about Mike Browning being disgruntled over some happenings with David Vincent and his wife. DeathMetal.org has offered to give Mr. Browning an outlet to shed some light on the happenings of the early days of Morbid Angel, as well as clear up any confusion that may be encircling the metal underground.
Not many people have such an extensive resume when it comes to being involved with innovative bands in Death Metal. Mike Browning helped mold Morbid Angel, then he helped to create Nocturnus. He has also played and recorded with Incubus, Acheron and After Death.
We are fortunate that Mr. Browning has given us his time to answer these questions.
Hi Mike. Thank you for your time. I have often thought of early Morbid Angel as Slayer on steroids. Why did you guys decide to take the music in such an extreme manner?
It was really what was just coming out of us naturally. Back then we weren’t trying to do or be anything other than an evil chaotic band that was real. We literally did Necronomicon rituals before we played invoking the Ancient Ones and then with that energy we would start playing. We even did it for rehearsals as well as live shows.
There have been confusing recounts of the Abominations of Desolation recording session. Was this Morbid Angel’s first official album? If so, why has the band referred to it as a demo?
Abominations of Desolation was the first Morbid Angel album recorded. We signed to David Vincent’s label Goreque Records and we went to North Carolina to record and David even hired the legendary Bill Metoyer to engineer the record. So even though it was not released until later, it really is the first Morbid Angel record and not a demo.
I don’t know why the band says it’s only a demo. You would have to ask them that. They also claim that Sterling Scarborough played bass on the recording, which is not true either. It was John Ortega.
After Abominations of Desolation was recorded you returned to Florida and Trey stayed with David Vincent in North Carolina. Why did he stay there?
Yes the rest of the band went back to Tampa after we recorded while Trey stayed alone with David to do the mixing. It was told to us that it would be cheaper to just keep Trey there for the mixing, but when Trey came back he acted like a completely different person. He said we had to fire John Ortega and that David had found a new bass player for us which was Sterling Scarborough.
What was the actual reason for your departure from Morbid Angel? I heard that there was a physical fight with you and Trey.
Yes that is what happened. I stopped by his house one afternoon on my lunch hour from work and saw my girlfriends car there so I kicked the door in and found them on the couch kissing and I beat up Trey pretty bad. We were all pretty young back then so that is how I handled it by kicking his ass, but by doing that it caused the band to split up and that is when Richard and Trey moved to North Carolina and started playing with David, Wayne Hartsell and Sterling. I got Gino Marino and reformed Sterling’s old band Incubus.
Morbid Angel appear to be twirling into Skrillex influences more than Death Metal. Their last album Illud Divinum Insanus has been mocked by fans from all over the world. Why do you think they recorded such a weird album?
Well from what I heard that most of the music was written by Trey and he let David do all the lyrics. I’m not really sure if that is the truth, but it came from a pretty reliable source.
David Vincent has signed on to be in a film about pornstar Vaness Del Rio. What are your thoughts on this?
I don’t even want to have any thoughts about it!!! Seriously though I think it will only damage his reputation with Morbid Angel, but hey I am sure all he cares about is that he will make money and maybe turn it into a new career for himself.
Gen Vincent (David Vincent’s wife) has gotten you banned from the nightclub ‘The Castle’ in Ybor City. Why has she gone to such measures?
It’s because I made fun of David and their last album, but of course I didn’t start it all. There were so many people already making fun of it before it even came out that when I finally heard some of it I started making fun of it too. But I guess since I live in the same town and actually just a few blocks away from his house and that I was actually in the band that it was me that started all the jokes about him and the last album. So I guess Gen thought she would try to get back at me by having me banned from the local Gothic club because Gen is very personal friends with the owner of the club. I rarely go there anymore. Just once or twice a year when they have the bigger yearly events there, so it’s no big deal being banned. It was more about the point of it.
Thank you for clearing up some of the confusion that has been encircling the metal community. What are your plans for the near future?
Just staying busy doing both After Death and some live Nocturnus shows. There has been so much interest in people wanting to see the old Nocturnus stuff live that my band After Death has learned the whole The Key album and we are doing these shows and playing the entire album straight through. Then we’re throwing in some old Morbid Angel songs from Abominations of Desolation versions for the encores.
I also want to say THANKS to everyone who has supported all the music I have done over all these years and hopefully I will be able to continue the chaos for many more!
Lecherous Nocturne have a new take on blackened death. Instead of trying to be black metal with death metal riffs, be death metal with black metal melody. And instead of using happy melodic death metal, use frenetic blasting death in the Unique Leader style.
The result is an aural fusillade that withers even the strongest opposition. It is quickly simply designed to pummel the listeners with jagged and abrupt riffing, then lull them into complacency with melody, and then make even those melodies evil and vile.
What makes this band interesting is that despite their newer stylings, they are sticking very much to the old school ideal of music that makes sense, instead of discoordinated riffing designed to distract. Like it or hate it, the result stands apart from the rest by communicating a worldview that is both terrifying and makes you want to participate.
We were lucky to catch up with Lecherous Nocturne guitarist Ethan Lane. We asked him if he’d mind a few questions.
Thank you for your interest.
What made you decide to take this interpretation of blasting death?
Melody and harmony, coupled with meter and rhythm, form the very foundation of any piece of music, and the music of Lecherous Nocturne is no exception. Although the melody can be difficult to pick out in our music, it is actually the driving force behind it and always exists. If you were to isolate any small section of one of our songs, and hear it played by itself, you may be surprised by how melodic it actually is…
Next, another one of the daunting aspects of our music is the complex meter changes/combinations we employ… It may seem like it’s changing all the time (and in fact it usually is…) But a piece of music is a living, breathing thing, constantly growing and developing. We are not a “verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, chorus” band… that constricting formula is not just sickeningly cliche, but inherently can’t fully let music be the art form it truly is. The musical masters of yesteryear always strove to break out of such restrictions and let their music grow, …even such a popular classical piece like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (that everyone knows the melody to) would never allow itself to become trite in its constrictive complacency — it’s always moving… Sure, themes are revisited, but almost always are they in a different key or presentation. This is found throughout all higher forms of music.
Now, I realize that the unrelenting “blast-beat” is very predominant in our sound, and a common characteristic of many of the traditional schools of death metal (which, we of course are fans of), But also, it may be easy to overlook the very strong black metal aspects of the music as well, which are every bit as predominant. It is the Black/Death marriage which can, if properly employed, really bring out some of the most exciting results… What I would ask of any potential listener of our latest release, is to let the blast beat (in it’s many different incarnations) be a “guide” for your emotions as you absorb the melody… listen “through” the blast beast to the underlying melodic, harmonic & rhythmic realities of the music. When that is achieved, a whole new world is opened up, so much more appreciation is to be found, the break-downs hit so much harder, the blast-beats themselves so much more poignant, the music is punctuated by so much more color…
What would you identify as your primary influences?
This is always a difficult question to answer without just listing a bunch of bands that we like….First and foremost, every one of us is a die-hard metal fan. The music we play is “Metal” (we would never consider our style anything else but metal, and were never ashamed of the term “metal”, as so many were in the 90’s…We of course grew up listening to the classics of many, many genres of metal…
But it goes even further than that. Every one of us is also a serious musician as well, and always looking for ways to further develop that sense of musicianship… Obviously, we’re all influenced by the various schools of black metal, thrash metal & death metal (Trying to name individual bands would be pointless, as the list would go on and on), but in addition to the obvious metal influences, there is so much more… James’ bass technique draws a lot from Jazz playing styles, as does much of the poly-rhythmic work Alex does on the drums. I personally take most of my guidance from classical/romantic piano masters such as Chopin, Rachmaninoff & Beethoven (Those guys were melting face off with some of the most ferocious extreme music ever written, a hundred years before anyone figured out how to distort a guitar or play a blast beat).
And our influences are not all just “musical” ones either. We’ve all been part of this difficult journey called life, and life is indeed one of our primary influences. The feelings of bitterness, frustration, sadness, loss, cynicism, anger & skepticism life elicits … and the desperate need to exorcise these demons from ourselves through this music is perhaps one of the greatest needs we have as artists, and truly one of the most important aspects of doing what we do…. The “Spiritual development”, if you will, of ourselves as individuals, as musicians, and as performers of metal. Hopefully others will take encouragement from this, and be strengthened from it as well.
You’re from South Carolina, which both has a long history of metal bands and isn’t the first place name that comes to mind when we talk about death metal. What is your local scene like? Did you face adversity being in a city with fewer death metal bands?
It’d be more accurate to say that we’re from “The Carolinas” (three-fifths of the band actually lives in North Carolina). And you are certainly are correct in observing that the Carolinas haven’t been the most “nurturing” environment for extreme metal. (despite having quite a long history of metal bands) Yes, It has been extremely difficult to “stay the course” in an area with such little support.
To say we’ve constantly had to face adversity would be a monumental understatement. And that’s not to put down the “local scene” entirely… there have been countless valiant efforts by the local scene to make something out of it, but without that support (that area-wide enthusiasm), it’s easy to simply run out of steam and burn out… it’s really depressing how many great bands have had to call it quits, simply due to a lack of support or encouragement (I know this all too well from my own personal experiences struggling in this scene for well over 10 years).
I consider myself very fortunate to still be doing this. But I’m also aware of how this has turned out to be a blessing in disguise in another aspect. Because of this adversity and lack of support, the “wheat definitely gets separated from the chaff”… In fact, Lecherous Nocturne, as it has turned out to be, wouldn’t even exist without the constant disappointments and frustrations we’ve all had to deal with. It brought us together, strengthened our music, and throughout all of this adversity, we’ve learned to be self-sufficient, to turn to our music and each other to find encouragement and the strength to carry on…And that is a very positive thing.
We are not a “verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, chorus” band… that constricting formula is not just sickeningly cliche, but inherently can’t fully let music be the art form it truly is.
Behold Almighty Doctrine sounds like it has some form of concept behind it. Can you tell us more about this?
Behold Almighty Doctrine isn’t a “concept album” in the traditional sense of the term (with each song telling a defined part of a greater story, lyrically, in “chapters” as it were), but this album in a sense, does tell a story; The story of the frustrations of its own creation. Lyrically, you could say we’re telling the story of our frustrations with life, bitter social commentary on the state of human existence, etc… But I think an even greater story is told in the music itself, without words, for those with ears to hear. I’ve actually been describing that story in little pieces this entire interview. It’s about what we stand for, ideologically & musically; what we get out of these struggles, how we can improve ourselves, and spread this message. This music is our “doctrine”. It’s an answer to the question “Why do we do this?”, a question that the songs themselves answer far better than words.
These songs are like complex mazes of riffs. How do human beings even compose such a thing? Do you use computers or higher mathematics to help you?
The complex nature of the composition and structuring of our songs is truly the heart of Lecherous Nocturne’s music (Aside from an unyielding dedication to the essence of “Metal”, of course…) It is this aspect of our music that is also the most time-consuming… It’s not uncommon for a single 2-minute song to take several months to write. We take great pains to challenge not only the listener but ourselves as musicians with what we write, constantly reworking sections, developing themes and transitions & tying the composition together as a whole in as many subtle ways as possible. In many cases, it takes several listens of a song to really start absorbing much of what has been painstakingly worked into each composition. Regardless of the seemingly chaotic manner of our music, I assure you that each note has been carefully placed, every time change, theme & phrase analyzed and re-analyzed until we feel that the piece has blossomed fully into the carefully constructed work of art we strive for it to be.
How did the band form, and how have you held together a lineup over the past decade?
Lecherous Nocturne was originally formed back in 1997, but there have been numerous lineup changes over the years. What Lecherous Nocturne is at present though, is a culmination of years of tempering. A combining of forces, a living metal entity, a group of people who have decided to keep playing without compromise, in the face of adversity, with little to no support, and a dedication to personal integrity to this music.
Do you think death metal now is stronger than when you started? Do people still listen to “real” death metal?
I’m not sure what people listen to anymore, why they do, or what the “metal scene” even means anymore…. And it’s ironic to me that I’m just as disappointed & disillusioned with the “metal scene” now as I ever was, despite the “resurgence” of the popularity of metal (in general, not just death metal). Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the metal scene at all. I don’t really have time to, or frankly, much of a desire to.
Lecherous Nocturne, as it has turned out to be, wouldn’t even exist without the constant disappointments and frustrations we’ve all had to deal with. It brought us together, strengthened our music, and throughout all of this adversity, we’ve learned to be self-sufficient
What’s your advice to fans who want to find quality death metal in 2013?
That all depends on what an individual defines as “quality”… is it how many notes you can play? is it “brutality”? is it how shocking your lyrics are? is it on-stage gimmicks? is it how fast you can shred/blast? Of course not. it’s none of that. I believe that true quality comes from a sense of dedication to artistry, intuition, individuality, creativity, and personal integrity to yourself and your craft. I’d start by keeping those characteristics in mind when trying to find something with “quality”. If you can do that, then I think you’re on the right track.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our interview questions.
Thresholds, the second offering from Mike Browning’s (ex-Morbid Angel) sci-fi death metal tour de force, is an uneven, messy, fusion-inspired, lurid and occult death metal album. The best bits on here such as the sparkling, baroque, Mozart-ian lead guitars on “Aquatica” and the super-addictive chug and rhythmic chant on “Climate Controller” will stick to mind but at times the observation leaps through that Browning & co. are nowhere near the composers that for example Azagthoth & Brunelle were. The polyphony of the looming synthesizers is mostly awkward atmosphere building instead of solid thematics incorporated with the guitars. Browning does have an uncanny primitivistic yet accurate touch with the drums, one he obviously is going for, even naming a track “Tribal Vodoun”. All in all, it was probably a disappointment for many who bought it back in the day simply because Trey Azagthoth was always wearing a Nocturnus shirt in promo pictures. Nowadays as a rare and seldom heard item it has both nostalgic cult value and alongside the equally fusionistic, strange but compulsive “Spheres” by Pestilence shows imaginative directions where death metal could have followed if it hadn’t been abandoned to the blind flocks with their “brutal chugging” and “melodic wanking” trends.