|Review: Nocturnus - Thresholds|
Label: Earache Records
Year released: 1992
Genre: Death Metal
Review online: September 19, 2006
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
I'll warn you, I'm one of those weirdos who thinks this is Nocturnus' best album. I thought The Key was interesting, but the songwriting was stilted and pretty dull, so despite the unusual and creepy atmosphere, I didn't think it was that great. Thresholds is a lot better. Hard to believe this was released in '92, right as the Dark Age was descending, though I guess it explains why such a promising band died so quickly.
Nocturnus was the band drummer Mike Browning formed after leaving Morbid Angel, and he had a distinct style of songwriting that you can hear on some of MA's old songs like "Chapel Of Ghouls", and it was all over The Key. He's a drummer, so he wrote songs where the vocals fit in between the drumbeats so he could do vocals too, it gives his songs a staccato effect which I think really strangles their momentum. Fortunately on this album he didn't stick rigidly to his same old formula, that he was no longer handling the vocal spot might have helped too. Thresholds has some stellar songs on it: The killer opener, the infectiously catchy "Arctic Crypt" with its cool lyrics, the similarly memorable "Alter Reality", and the album's high point, the epic "Aquatica". There are also some not as good tunes: "Tribal Voudun", "Subterranean Infiltrator" – just filler to take up space. But the good stuff is very, very good. Here Nocturnus seem to have integrated the keys with the guitars more effectively, using them for melody and atmosphere rather than just spooky sound effects – but we have to remember that back then using keys of any kind was heresy to many fans.
The recording is a bit muddy for such a technical band, and I do wish it had more clarity, because there is a lot going on in this music. The cool sci-fi themes are well in evidence, without any stupid Satan bullshit to drag things down to more cliché levels. Overall this is a very strong album that did not, and still does not, get the respect it deserves. Nocturnus were breaking new ground with this one, pity they didn't break much more.
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