The original Nocturnus are well known in the death metal scenes for being one of the earliest bands (along with Pestilence) to incorporate synths and keyboards into their particularly weird but wonderful brand of death metal. Even though we are (at the time of writing) 19 years into the 21st century, the metal scene is still rife with apparently long dead bands that appear to have risen again (Death Angel, Possessed, and even the much praised Forbidden had a brief spell of returning for a while).
“Ah, but this is Nocturnus A.D. – whatever that is!”, as the cynics scoff dismissively into their bottles of Newcastle Brown, clad in so called ‘battle jackets’ before they were ever called such a thing, who’ve been around since you were a twinkle in your father’s clock weights. In a world lacking innovation and recycling old fashion trends, with reboots of apparently everything (it’s only a matter of time before Hai-Karate aftershave and Tab Clear comes back, surely?) one can easily get sick to the back teeth of remade this, remade that, remade the other if you’re finding grey hairs and remember what a Ford Cortina was. Nevertheless, don’t assume this is some form of rubbish simulacrum that should never have seen the light of day. Oh no, this is the real deal featuring the esteemed Mike Browning himself of Nocturnus’ The Key album, along with a suitably worthy cast of band members that have been in the likes of Obituary and a whole list of death and black metal bands too numerous to mention.
Paradox is an album that picks up where Nocturnus’ The Key should’ve originally ended (albeit with a slightly altered name due to “copyright reasons”), and not the lamentable and baffling ‘Ethereal Tomb’ album that was released 20 years ago. Tracks such as ‘Precession of the Equinoxes’ are as decent and wacky as you can remember; warbling synths and keyboards with enigmatic riffs bursting from the speakers, and a layered colourful sound suitably dense in structure that at times circles a cacophonous precipice. But then, tracks such as ‘The Bandar Sign’ with its spooky Tomita-esque keyboard intro grabs you by the throat – with riffs that threaten you to throw huge guitar shapes, and to bang those heads that don’t bang to such empirical musical majesty; along with warbly keyboards and lead guitar solo duelling fun that makes for hugely addictive listening. For the initiated, imagine if Morbid Angel were a sci-fi obsessed death metal band where Trey Azagthoth wrote some unpublished space adventure, with a subject matter obsession that measures 4.5/5 on the Karl Sanders-O-Meter in comparison to Nile’s works – and you have a pretty good idea of what Nocturnus A.D. are trying to achieve here.
Paradox is a perfect thematic continuation of the adventures of Dr. Magus and his bio suit as originally narrated in the lyrics to ‘The Key’, so it’s fair to say that the album isn’t breaking any new ground but focuses on the unique sound that was pioneered back in the day which will draw in older and newer generations of metal fans alike. It encapsulates the spirit of classic death metal, but with far superior production values that help to make the album in some respects even more captivating for the listener. But, we are talking of a band that had a three decade long hiatus that created a weird sound of their own that has been thoroughly burned into death metal’s landscape, where Blood Incantation and Vektor have obviously taken direct inspiration and made comprehensive notes. In a scene where you could be forgiven for thinking Immolation and Suffocation clones are ‘in fashion’ in 2019, Nocturnus A.D. have whipped the carpet up from their collective feet and shown them how it all should be done: with a rambling science fiction story, searing guitar solos, and huge doses of spooky keyboard tomfoolery. Nice.