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lunedì 23 marzo 2015

Nocturnus - The Science of Horror

#FOR FANS OF: Death Metal, Malevolent Creation, Deicide
Long-revered and long-since-disbanded, Floridian legends Nocturnus are rightly regarded as one of the better-kept secrets in the scene and are widely considered the originators of keyboard use in Death Metal which is ably demonstrated by this release which packs together the bands’ first two demos. While the release itself might be questionable considering it’s a reprint of a similar compilation from a decade ago (which was simply called ‘The Nocturnus Demos’) and even manages to run the same critical foul of using the same running order so their second demo, the one named for this release, is given top-billing while their debut, self-titled demo is on Side-B the fact remains that for those that missed out on that release this one will surely suffice quite well by managing to introduce fans to this off-the-wall mixture of spacey keyboard theatrics and solid, dependable Floridian-inspired Death Metal. There’s certainly a sound disparity between these two demos as the first one, being the more-recent-recorded effort comes off quite well with solid drum-tones if too heavy on clattering cymbals and a deep thudding guitar tone that isn’t crystal clear but works well for the material at hand while the second half is light, fuzzy and features the kind of sound normally found on garage-style rehearsals though they still come with the same intensity and ferocity normally found in their regular, professional works. Beyond these issues, the other major difference between these two releases is the fact that the second demo doesn’t have the keyboards found on the first one, as in between recordings the band hired a keyboardist into the group so the first four tracks come complete with their penchant for trippy, celestial keyboards while the second half is straightforward. ‘Before Christ/After Death’ is a true trip and one of their better numbers, the howling winds and swirling keyboard intro serving up a spectacular base for churning riff-work and thudding drumming that delivers maddening tempo changes and furious riff-work which makes this a much better version than the earlier version that appears on the first demo. ‘Standing in Blood’ is another of their true classics and comes off incredibly well here with pounding drumming and savage riff-work slicing through jagged patterns with effective keyboard nuances just like the true album version making this another stand-out effort. The stand-out effort on this release, ‘Neolithic’ comes off the most like the album version with swirling riff-work and dynamic tempo-shifts with frenzied patterns and full-on keyboard solos against the thrashing Death rhythms at its heart for the best example yet of their wildly-creative fusion of dissonant keyboards and savage Death Metal which is certainly one of their finest works at the demo stage. ‘Undead Journey’ starts with more spacey keyboard work before turning into a rabid assault of furious riffing, relentless drumming and intense tempo shifts that accounts for the unusual keyboard theatrics on display which tends to really rob sections of the Death Metal sound here for a track mostly noteworthy more for fans than anyone else. Switching over to the second demo, which is actually their first release, the self-titled ‘Nocturnus’ features simple riff-patterns and languid pacing tempos that tends to rob the rather intense rhythms and drum-work of their rather rabid later half which makes this probably the best on this demo but clearly below the upper tracks. ‘B.C. - A.D.’ omits the intro and sticks to the main rhythms with pounding drumming and intense riff-work that really manages to come off incredibly well as the furious tempo throughout here covers up the sloppy play and energy-sapping recoding quality. The last two tracks are quite a surprise being unrecorded elsewhere, though ‘The Entity’ is for good reason with a dreary pace and lethargic double-bass runs that really struggles to get the tempo up or engaged during the first half while the cacophony of drum-blasts and frenzied riff-work in the second half is wasted with a series of shifts back-and-forth into varying tempos trying to make a better song out of this. ‘Unholy Fury’ comes off better with a more cohesive sound and seems to really have a driven template rather than the aimless riffing of the previous effort, which is nice if only two short as the shortest one here doesn’t really allow it a lot of room to grow. Still, this is a wholly impressive collection of material that really shows where the band came from and why they’re so well-regarded in the scene, especially for those who missed out on the previous compilation release. (Don Anelli)

(Nuclear War Now! Productions - 2015)
Score: 80