NOCTURNUS

Technical Death Metal / Death Metal • United States
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NOCTURNUS are an American progressive death metal act formed in Tampa, Florida in 1987 by drummer/ vocalist Mike Browning. Mike Browning had been a member of MORBID ANGEL from 1984-1986 ( check "Abominations of Desolation" (1991) by MORBID ANGEL to hear his contributions to that band) and when he left MORBID ANGEL he formed INCUBUS. INCUBUS turned out to be a shortlived affair though and Mike Browning left the band to form NOCTURNUS. INCUBUS guitarist Gino Marino also joined NOCTURNUS and played on both the 1987 "Nocturnus" demo and the 1988 "The Science of Horror" demo before he left the band. The lineup on the first demo also included guitarist Vincent Crowley who would later form death metal act ACHERON and bassist Richard Bateman who would later join NASTY SAVAGE. The first demo was in old school death metal style and the lyrics were based on occultism. the 1988 "The read more...
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NOCTURNUS Discography

NOCTURNUS albums / top albums

NOCTURNUS The Key album cover 4.18 | 19 ratings
The Key
Technical Death Metal 1990
NOCTURNUS Thresholds album cover 4.08 | 13 ratings
Thresholds
Technical Death Metal 1992
NOCTURNUS Ethereal Tomb album cover 3.53 | 7 ratings
Ethereal Tomb
Death Metal 2000

NOCTURNUS EPs & splits

NOCTURNUS Nocturnus album cover 2.67 | 2 ratings
Nocturnus
Technical Death Metal 1993

NOCTURNUS live albums

NOCTURNUS demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

NOCTURNUS Nocturnus album cover 1.50 | 1 ratings
Nocturnus
Death Metal 1987
NOCTURNUS The Science of Horror album cover 2.00 | 1 ratings
The Science of Horror
Death Metal 1988

NOCTURNUS re-issues & compilations

NOCTURNUS The Nocturnus Demos album cover 3.00 | 3 ratings
The Nocturnus Demos
Death Metal 2003
NOCTURNUS The Science of Horror album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Science of Horror
Death Metal 2015

NOCTURNUS singles (0)

NOCTURNUS movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

NOCTURNUS Reviews

NOCTURNUS Thresholds

Album · 1992 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The Tampa, FL based NOCTURNUS made its mark on the extreme metal scene all the way back in the 80s after former Morbid Angel drummer / vocalist Mike Browning created a new variety of technical death metal that included a keyboardist as well as exhibiting heavily fortified sci-fi themes with overarching concepts. After a couple of demos hitting the market, NOCTURNUS cranked out one of the most unique metal albums of the 90s with its lauded debut “The Key” which adopted a Terminator movie theme of a cyborg sent back in time to kill Jesus Christ as well as fusing the Morbid Angel styled death metal riff attacks with wickedly wild neoclassical solo tradeoffs which made NOCTURNUS one of the most technical infused death metal bands of the early 90s long before Necrophagist.

While Browning served as both drummer and vocalist on “The Key,” for the band’s second album THRESHOLDS which came out two years later, Dan Izzo joined the team as lead vocalist and Browning focused exclusively on drums and percussion. While the debut had a complete album concept, THRESHOLDS on the other hand tackled a wide range of topics that included climate change on “Climate Controller,” indigenous issues on “Tribal Vodoun,” underwater species on “Aquatica,” the Metal Gear video game series on “Subterranean Infiltrator” and extraterrestrial life on “Gridzone.” Musically the band expanded its sound into an even more progressive nature with more complex time signatures, more experimental compositions and even more exquisite displays of virtuosic technicalities without sacrificing the melodic hooks and thrash laden sensibilities of “The Key.”

While the band stuck out from the death metal pack early on with the inclusion of the keyboard, on THRESHOLDS, the music is more varied and bolder in its displays of the usual suspects of tremolo picked riffs and pounding rhythmic drive. The keyboard contributions also continued the role of atmospheric generator taking the doom laden darkness to even more mysteriously gloomy heights but also found moments as lead instrument with equally frenetic roles that would make Keith Emerson take notice as the keyboards take on even more ambitious roles in constructing a wider range than “The Key.” One of the most dynamic use of the keys is on the superb “Aquatica” which delivers underwater sounds as well as the proper extensions of ambience. Tracks like “Subterranean Infiltrator” on the other hand are all about the guitars and showcases one of the most dynamic twin guitar attacks with clever trade-offs in both the riffing as well as mind numbing soloing.

In many ways, THRESHOLDS sounds a lot different than “The Key” even though much of the stylistic approach is in tact. This album in contrast is slightly less aggressive and delves into more diverse styles of expression with quieter sections and takes license to find more experimental instrumental interplay and progressive off-kilter time signature delivers. While the production has been cited as horrendous by many, my 2013 remastered version sounds pretty good actually although the vocals sound further back in the mix than on “The Key” and although Browning’s decision to add a new vocalist so that he could focus exclusively on the drums, it seems there are many segments of the album where the drums are significantly less dynamic with many moments where he is simply keeping a rather unexciting beat much like a garage band which raises the question of what may have been the true cause of his exodus from the band after this album. Was he really injured and just unable to play with the same ferocity?

This was pretty much the last true album of the original NOCTURNUS lineup. The story goes that the band members secured the trademark to the band name and kicked the founder, Browning out like an old pair of shoes. Rumor has it that it was all about which direction the band wanted to take. Browning wanted to include more occult lyrics whereas the rest of the band wanted to keep it in the sci-fi universe but like all messy relationships that take place behind closed doors, this will probably remain a secret until someone spills the beans about the actually events that unfolded. As far as occult lyrics go, it’s particularly interesting how the opening “Climate Controller” refers to Kakodammu which is the word of Addu, the forty-seventh name of Marduk, defeater of the ancient ones. I find the references are directed toward the man-made climate control technologies admitted by NASA and other institutions to be of particular interest.

In many ways i love THRESHOLDS even more than “The Key.” The tracks are much more interesting as individual slices tech death metal magic however the album lacks the overall cohesiveness of the debut. Add to that the drum parts are by far the biggest disappointment but despite the elements that could’ve used some more work, this is an excellent album that stands out not only from pretty much every other metal album that has been released but from the band’s debut itself. While Browning was kicked out of his own band, the rest of the team only managed to squeak out a pathetic little EP before disbanding the following year and although there was an attempt to revive the band several years later, the album “Ethereal Tomb’ didn’t come close to capturing the creativity cranked out in the first two NOCTURNUS albums so as far as i’m concerned this is the end of the road for one fo the most creative metal bands of the 90s. While not quite as perfect as the debut, THRESHOLDS is still an outstanding slice of 90s extreme metal that shouldn’t be missed.

NOCTURNUS The Key

Album · 1990 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
While forever destined to go down in metal history as the ugly stepchild of Morbid Angel, one of the Tampa scene’s most enduring legacies and possible greatest product of the thriving Florida death metal scene, NOCTURNUS was a very strange extreme metal band that despite being lumped into the technical death metal crowds, really existed in its own little world. The band was started by ex-Morbid Angel drummer (1983-86) and vocalist Mike Browning in 1987 after the breakup of his short-lived band Incubus (no, not that one!) however guitarist Gino Marino tagged along for a short while and after many lineup changes the band found stability with the team of Browning (vocals, drums), Mike Davis (guitar, bass), Sean McNenney (guitar), Jeff Estes (bass) and Louis Panzer (keyboards). The band cut a couple demos and then set out to create one of the most unique extreme albums of the entire era.

In the nascent years when death metal was just taking its first steps with the likes of Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary, Atheist and Autopsy introducing the world to a ramped up unforgiving style of relentless heavy metal run amok, NOCTURNUS were looking way ahead to the next level. The band stood out like a sore thumb with one of the earliest uses of an atmospheric keyboard player in the midst of a brutal guitar, bass and drum orotundity that was all the stranger for developing highly sophisticated sci-fi concepts about an evil overlord from the future sending a cyborg back in time to assassinate Jesus Christ so that the tenets of Christianity would never be allowed to take root and thus allowing the seeds of evil to gain the upper hand on a much earlier timeline. Sounds like someone was watching the Terminator movie just a wee bit much, huh?

For all its seemingly cheesified subject matter, the band’s debut album THE KEY released in 1990 is a stunning powerhouse of highly developed technical extreme metal that was not only looking ahead by incorporating new aspects of metal yet to be accepted by a wider audience but was also mining the past, thus THE KEY not only fits in that awkward moment when the difference between the thrash and death metal sub-genera was a bit fuzzy but also displayed moments of neoclassical power metal as well as highly complex elements from progressive rock that were only recently finding their way into the metal paradigm. The results of this unusual for the time amalgamation of sounds is that NOCTURNUS created an unrivaled style that has scarcely been replicated even several decades after this album’s initial release. Likewise the occult themes and atmospheric accoutrements portended the evolution of the black metal scene that would find its heyday in the 90s and beyond.

While the keyboard sounds which are used for intros and subdued atmospheric grounding rods of sort get the most attention as this was unprecedented at the time, the true strength of THE KEY is the dual technical guitar attacks of Davis and McNenney who combined a hefty Morbid Angel styled barrage of riffing coupled with thrash metal techniques introduced by both Metallica and Megadeth. Add to that the exquisite virtuosity of the many different sections of neoclassical soloing and it doesn’t take long to realize that the guitar aspects of the album are by far the dominant features. With a very few exceptions such as the clean guitar arpeggiated intro of “BC-AD,” the album provides a ferocious stampede of pummeling percussive drive and high octane guitar orotundity all glazed over by the lush ethereal keyboards that more often than not fade into the background but at key moments provide the main rhythmic stomp as the soloing frenzies are let off the leash. The only instrument that seems to be buried for the most part is the bass but there are moments when it finds their own voice and emerge from the deafening din.

NOCTURNUS’ debut album may not be one that sinks into your skin instantly. It certainly didn’t for me. This album took quite a few spins before its magic really grabbed me and pulled me into its idiosyncratic sci-fi imbued extreme metal soundscape and really smacked me in the face. While superficially existing in the early 90s timeline with the heavy extreme guitar riffage and Marty Friedman-esque guitar solo workouts, the intricate constructs of the progressively infused compositions takes THE KEY to an entirely new level of sophistication. This was a case where the band was a little bit ahead of its time and although NOCTURNUS released a sophomore album titled “Thresholds” in 1992 and an eponymously titled EP the following year, the band would call it quits in 93 but would reform for a third album several years later. THE KEY dishes out everything i love about old school death metal but with progressive and atmospheric twists that use the sci-fi narrative as their guide. The album is exquisitely performed and there are literally no weak tracks on this magnum opus. A slow burner for sure but one that has been gaining more steam over the ensuing decades.

NOCTURNUS Ethereal Tomb

Album · 2000 · Death Metal
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UMUR
"Ethereal Tomb" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US death metal act Nocturnus and the band´s first album since "Thresholds (1992)". The album was released through Season of Mist in February 2000. After the release of "Thresholds (1992)", the band ran into a lot of issues, especially with the lineup, where drummer (and former vocalist) and founding member Mike Browning was ousted, kicking and screaming, after some of the other members had secured the rights to the Nocturnus name behind his back. New drummer on "Ethereal Tomb" is Rick Bizarro. Bassist Chris Anderson has been replaced by Emo Mowery, who has also taken over the vocal duties from Dan Izzo. The three remaining members from the lineup who recorded the predecessor are Mike Davis (Guitars), Sean McNenney (Guitars), and Louis Panzer (Keyboards).

Nocturnus was one of the early Florida based death metal acts, and they made quite a name for themselves with their debut full-length studio album "The Key (1990)", as they included a keyboard player in the lineup. A very rare thing in those days. Other than having a keyboard player in the lineup of a death metal band in the late 80s/early 90s, the fact that Louis Panzer did other things than just play backing keyboards, and was a more integrated part of the band´s sound, made Nocturnus stand out from the crowd.

Stylistically "Ethereal Tomb" pretty much continues the keyboard laden sci-fi themed death metal style of its two predecessors. The music is relatively technical and occasionally enters progressive territories, but it´s still old school death metal at it´s core. New lead vocalist Emo Mowery has a strong and commanding intelligible growling delivery, and the rest of the band are very well playing too. I think the keyboards aren´t as dominant as earlier, and they are often placed low in the mix and used as backing, but maybe they don´t seem that interesting in Nocturnus music anymore because it simply wasn´t a rare thing to feature a keyboard player in a death metal band in the year 2000. Panzer could have pulled a few tricks to keep that part of the music exciting, but unfortunately he has opted for a more restrained role on "Ethereal Tomb". One thing that hasn´t changed since the early releases by the band, are the many well played guitar solos, which really help expand the music beyond standard death metal territory.

The material is as such well written and there are some catchy parts here and there, but overall there are too many tracks which are enjoyable while they play, but forgotten as soon as they are over. So it´s certainly a bit up and down in that department. It´s the kind of album which opens strong with "Orbital Decay", which is one of the few standout tracks on the album, and then after a couple of tracks starts to fade a bit to the background because of a lack of hooks. When that is said "Ethereal Tomb" is not a bad album by any means, and it still features many assets which makes it worth a listen or two, but it doesn´t exactly reach the heights of its two "classic" predecessors and a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

NOCTURNUS Thresholds

Album · 1992 · Technical Death Metal
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Warthur
On their second album Nocturnus leaned even harder on the sci-fi aspects of their debut, dialling back the death metal Satanism but keeping the technical death metal virtuosity intact. With a clean production style and carefully judged keyboard work from Louis Panzer emphasising the spacey aesthetic, it might not have as gripping a concept as The Key but it's far from a major musical step backwards. As an evolution of Nocturnus' sound, it hints at the directions that the band might have gone in were it not for an extended hiatus and lineup fragmentation derailing them for much of the rest of the 1990s.

NOCTURNUS The Key

Album · 1990 · Technical Death Metal
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Vim Fuego
How do you like your Satanism? Half-baked and cartoon-ish, like Slayer? Space cadet style, praising the Ancient Ones like Morbid Angel? Perhaps you prefer the straight-for-the-throat style of Glen Benton and Deicide. Well guess what? You can get all three in one nice, neat little package. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 'The Key'.

But then, how do you like your death metal? Well, if you are a Morbid Angel fan and you do not have this, track it down immediately. It is like listening to Morbid Angel on a Walkman (young readers please note: a Walkman was a primitive iPod) while riding a roller coaster. Before Nocturnus, drummer/vocalist Mike Browning was a member of Morbid Angel, and is at least as deranged as Trey Azagthoth, if not more so, but more of that later. As a drummer, he rivals Pete Sandoval for technicality, speed and brutality. However, Nocturnus live would have been interesting, because it is hard to believe Browning could keep up the tempo and sing at the same time.

Nocturnus were considered revolutionary at the time this album was recorded. Aside from being one of the heaviest and most technical bands around, they added keyboards to their musical typhoon. While such a thing may seem trivial now, it was big news in 1990. Louis Panzer's keyboards added a space rock/sci-fi feel to the technical death blasts. While death metal bands had used keyboards in the studio before, Nocturnus was first to make them an integral part of the band. "BC/AD" and "Droid Sector" made good use of effects in their introductions, but the standout track, as far as keyboards go, is "Lake Of Fire". A UFO-type oscillating wail underpins the entire song, with drums and guitars playing off and weaving around it.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, just hold off for a moment. Do you think you can handle the warped world of Mike Browning's lyrics? The main reason for this band not hitting the death metal big time was the subject matter of the songs. And here are the shades of Satanism. First, Slayer: "Destroying The Manger" is all about destroying Christ as a child, by um... building a time machine, and zapping back to 0 A.D. "Droid Sector" is equally as adolescent. Shades of Morbid Angel? "Empire Of The Sands" and "Lake Of Fire" have a Sumerian feel to them, and touch on elemental themes. And "BC/AD", "Visions From Beyond The Grave" and "Standing In Blood" are straight from the Deicide school of eviler-than-thou theology.

Unfortunately, this band lost it in a big way. Instead of maturing, the next album 'Thresholds' was even sillier thematically, which even the semi-revolutionary ultra-technical approach to death metal could not compensate for. 'The Key' could almost be considered in the league of 'Altars Of Madness', but instead of a launching point for a strong career, it was a high point before obscurity.

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