NOCTURNUS AD — Unicursal (review)

NOCTURNUS AD — Unicursal album cover Album · 2024 · Technical Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
UMUR
"Unicursal" is the second full-length studio album by US, Florida based death metal act Nocturnus AD. The album was released through Profound Lore Records in May 2024. It´s the successor to "Paradox" from May 2019, so it´s been five years betweeen the two album releases. There haven´t been any lineup changes, so the lineup who recorded "Paradox" is intact on "Unicursal".

Although the current incarnation of the band formed in 2013, drummer/lead vocalist Mike Browning has a long history in US death metal, being the original drummer and vocalist in Morbid Angel. After leaving Morbid Angel Browning formed Nocturnus and performed on their two classic albums "The Key" (1990) and "Thresholds" (1992) before being fired from the band he co-founded. He shortly formed Nocturnus AD in 1990 but changed the band name to After Death. In the period 2000-2013 After Death released quite a few demos (all material from the demos can be found on the 2007 compilation album "Retronomicon"), but in 2013 Browning opted to change the name back to Nocturnus AD. He always felt that Nocturnus was his creation and he wanted to carry on the legacy of the band, but since he had lost the rights to the name, he added the AD to avoid legal action from his previous bandmates who still owned the name. When playing live Nocturnus AD also play Nocturnus songs, so in effect (since Nocturnus haven´t been active since 2002), this is the closest you get to the real deal.

"Unicursal" is a concept album continuing the sci-fi story of Dr. Magus which was initiated on "The Key" and continued on "Paradox" (a sci-fi story mixing anti-christian themes, with futuristic sci-fi themes, and fantasy mystical themes). Stylistically the material on "Unicursal" naturally continue the sci-fi themed old school death metal featuring prominent use of keyboards, which the band also played on "Paradox". Browning is a raw shouting/semi-growling type vocals, and while his vocals aren´t the most powerful death metal vocals I´ve encountered and his staccato delivery can get a bit one-dimensional and tedious, he has a personal style which is more than you can say about a lot of other death metal vocalists.

While the core of the compositions is more or less thrash oriented old school death metal the dominant use of keyboards and the blistering lead guitar work are some of the features which set Nocturnus AD apart from other death metal acts with the same base elements. The music on "Unicursal" isn´t terribly different from what Nocturnus put out in the early 90s, but I guess that´s the whole point. The novelty of having a permanent keyboard player in a death metal band wore off a long time ago, but that doesn´t mean the addition of keyboards to Nocturnus AD´s death metal music isn´t effective and atmosphere enhancing, because it certainly is. To my ears the keyboards have at times maybe become a bit too dominant and provide the music with an epic symphonic feeling, that´s a bit generic if you compare them to how the keyboards where used on the original Nocturnus albums, where they either provided an eerie effect or even worked as a lead instrument.

"Unicursal" is a well produced release, sounding clear and powerful, and featuring a lot of details. Producer Jarrett Pritchard has done a great job here. So upon conclusion "Unicursal" is another good quality death metal release from Nocturnus AS, cementing their return to the scene and showing the world that they still have lots to give. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.
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