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Review: Nocturnus - The Key
The Key

Label: Earache Records
Year released: 1990
Duration: 48:16
Tracks: 10
Genre: Death Metal

Rating: 4.75/5

Review online: November 30, 2009
Reviewed by: Christopher Foley
Readers Rating
The Key

Rated 4.49/5 (89.86%) (71 Votes)

Shock/Horror early DM with keyboards! Obviously one of the immediate points any metalhead would bring up when discussing Nocturnus' debut The Key. Fortunately the keyboards are used to great effect, giving a great spacey feel coupled with the astonishing album artwork, really giving a futuristic feel. Musically comparisons can be drawn to a lot of the DM acts around at the time. Obviously acts such as Morbid Angel and Death spring to mind, although the keys really do add that stamp of identification. In my experience this is the earliest I've encountered keyboard use this strong in early DM – of course these subjects can be much argued, thus it would be a bold move to praise these guys as the pioneers of keyboard use in DM. Although what I can say is they were doing it quite some time before those Gothenburg boys.

Nocturnus are very technical and by that I don't mean the crap people pass off as technical these days (not pointing any fingers, Suffocation). Nocturnus play the sort of DM you need in your life, heavy and thrashy that isn't 40 minutes of music buried under blast beats that sound like the drummer is wielding two pencils and a biscuit tin. The guitar work is flawlessly constructed with some really daring lead guitar drawing from most areas of the metal spectrum, although there are a few instances where it doesn't work by today's standards – for instance album opener "Lake of Fire" starts with some very outrageous guitar work that although I can appreciate the talent and the feel they were going for just comes across as very amateur. Although that really is nitpicking, in all honesty guitarists Mike Davis and Sean McNenney smoke throughout, bellowing forth mighty riffs and face splitting leads – reminding me a lot of the leads from Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness album. Speaking of Morbid Angel, ex-drummer Mike Browning lends his sticks and vocal talents to the vessel of Nocturnus, thus giving a slight feel of the Morbid Angel demos.

The Key is a sublime release packed with some of the finest Death Metal I've laid ears on, it's one of those albums that start well and as each track comes along things just seem to get better. By the time you hit "Visions from Beyond the Grave", we're starting to talk classic. "Neolithic" stands out as a personal favorite, opening with an absolute punisher of a riff and a superb middle section. In all honestly I'd class everything between "Visions…" and "Empire of the Sands" as standout for this release. If you like early DM this is definitely a no brainer, if you don't own this you should hunt it down immediately. Fans of Death, Morbid Angel, and to an extent acts such as Atheist and Anata, I can whole heartedly recommend this to you. Relevant even by today's standards this is a piece of metal that should be tried at least once in life.

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