Nocturnus – The Science of Horror


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.

The Science of Horror Demo 2 (1988)
1. Before Christ – After Death
2. Standing in Blood
3. Neolithic
4. Undead Journey
Nocturnus Demo 1 (1987)
5. Nocturnus
6. B.C. – A.D.
7. The Entity
8. Unholy Fury

Tracks 1-4:
Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals
Mike Davis: Guitars
Louis Panzer: Keyboards
Jeff Estes: Bass
Gino Marino: Guitars
Tracks 5-8:
Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals
Richard Bateman: Bass
Vincent Crowley: Guitars
Gino Marino: Guitars

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16 thoughts on “Nocturnus – The Science of Horror

  1. Jennifer T says:

    I’m recently getting into metal and the style I’m most fond of is that of rhythmic groove intensity sort of like speed metal bounce but with death metal rhythmic violence say:

    Nocturnus – Thresholds
    early Solstice
    1st and 3rd Deicide
    1st Malevolent Creation

    If you could please point me to some other bands or albums that use this style of bouncy percussive death metal I’d really appreciate it. Thank you all.

    1. Richard Head says:

      I don’t really know what you mean by bouncy but why the hell do you not like Legion?!

      Anyway, Suffocation (first three albums), Morpheus Descends “Ritual of Infinity”, and Baphomet “Dead Shall Inherit” are good albums with that percussive emphasis present throughout.

      1. Black Commentator says:

        Legion, like all deicide records, is comical (in a bad way) and suffers from a lack of great riffs. Their music is serviceable at best in that it displays a competent understanding of Death Metal is, but fails at making anything engaging.

        1. Richard Head says:

          Black Commentator, like all blacks, is comical (in a bad way) and suffers from a lack of great man-ass. Their comment is serviceable at best in that it displays a competent understanding of what discourse is, but fails at saying anything engaging.

          1. Ara says:

            I always thought Legion was MILES above their other material.

            1. Legion is my favorite of their works, but it took some time to grow on me.

              1. Black Commentator says:

                Deicide is very forward with their music. Would you care to explain?

                1. Deicide like Suffocation were more focused on speed metal than death metal. Legion is like a proto-Obscura: use of tempo shifts and interrupt/resume structures to achieve a labyrinthine, very satisfying sense. That is grafted on top of standard Deicide, which derives a lot of influence — like Suffocation and Malevolent Creation — from the harder side of speed metal, specifically Sepultura on Legion.

                  1. Thorkaldson Rasmussen says:

                    Yess Brett maybe you should review a little of both, but specifically Malevolent CReation’s albums. They’ve been influential to other bands as well, for instance Swedish band Hypocrisy sounds like they copied Malevolent quite a lot.

            2. Richard Head says:

              It is. I just found it weird that anyone who listens to death metal finds the album “comical”.

            3. Black Commentator says:

              This is true. However it is also equivalent to saying In Utero is miles above Nirvana’s other material: at the end of the day, it’s still audible AIDS.

          2. Black Commentator says:

            “Dick Head” is fourth grade level humor. Your responses to my comments in other articles have been, on average, as juvenile as your humor. I suggest elevating your own discourse before lecturing others to do the same. Does the existence of an African-superman, such as myself, frighten you?

            1. Richard Head says:

              Call me juvenile, then make fun of my name? Very convincing.

          3. fenrir says:

            talk about poor appreciation. That album is amazing at so many levels. Everything is in place. And details such as the vocals and the way the guitars diverge slightly contribute so much to it. But mostly it is the tight construction. There are many good riffs, it is just that they don’t stand out as “the riff”, because the music is so well written that all riffs seem to serve the whole more than stand out for their own sake.

  2. Ara says:

    No love for Pierced from Within? Or not counting Human Waste as an “album?”

    1. Richard Head says:

      Pierced From Within was their third album, no? I thought Human Waste was an EP too. I just recommend the first three albums because a full-length shows a band’s real strength and weakness.

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