Published May 22, 2019A band truly before their time, Tampa death dwellers Nocturnus were one of the first death metal bands to use keyboards to propel their science fiction-themed lyrics. Their debut, 1990's The Key, was a slithering amalgam of technical guitars, eerie keyboards, and blackened vocal barks. A diverse offering from the early Earache roster, it sat well with open-minded death addicts, but left casual fans scratching their heads.
After leaving the band in 1992, founding vocalist/drummer Mike Browning formed After Death, but chose to keep those Nocturnus ideas on the backburner. After nearly 30 years, Nocturnus AD, comprised of Browning plus the After Death lineup — featuring ex-Obituary bassist Daniel Tucker — completes the sci-fi chronicle that The Key began.
The band that put keyboards up front, instead of reserving them only for moody song intros, is immediately reborn on opener "Seizing the Throne," sounding just as brilliantly unbridled as the original Nocturnus did on 1989's seminal Grindcrusher compilation. The chord progressions in "The Bander Sign" are still otherworldly, as if teleported from a 16th century classical concerto. The more recognizable keyboard tones here range from the occult cacophony of a Dario Argento film ("Aeon of the Ancient Ones"), to Rick Wakeman, circa Six Wives of Henry VIII ("Number 9"), to spooky Stranger Things outtakes ("Paleolithic").
The album's pace is relentlessly brutal, with no mid-paced death chuggers or slower songs, matching the urgency of the album's theme. "Precession of the Equinoxes" features guitars and keys running neck and neck, while "The Antechamber" contains frenetic blast beats, epic fretboard runs and unremitting, pummelling riffage.
Indeed, Paradox is like a time capsule: if it had been released after The Key in the early '90s, Nocturnus might not be a death metal footnote today. In actuality, Nocturnus AD are still challenging, but will not sound odd among today's multifarious metal offerings, and Paradox will still give you that same frisson you felt when you listened to The Key for the first time. (Profound Lore)