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Nocturnus - Thresholds CD (album) cover

THRESHOLDS

Nocturnus

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.61 | 16 ratings

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UMUR
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Thresholds" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Florida based progressive death metal act Nocturnus. The album was released through Earache Records in December 1992. There´s been a few changes to the lineup since the release of the debut album "The Key (1990)". Bassist Jeff Estes was asked to leave alledgedly because of problems with alcohol abuse and in addition to that Earache Records put pressure on Nocturnus to find a "real" frontman. Up until then drummer Mike Browning had also taken care of the vocals. Alledgedly Earache Records promised Nocturnus that they would sponsor a promotional video for one of the songs from "Thresholds" if Mike Browning would step down from his vocal duties (they ended up making a video for "Alter Reality"). Apparently the record company felt that the drummer/vocalist constallation was a problem. Therefore former Tortured Souls vocalist Dan Izzo was brought in for the recording of "Thresholds". New bassist on the album is Chris Anderson. The ususal suspects are guitarists Mike Davis and Sean McNenney, keyboard player Louis Panzer and drummer Mike Browning.

Curiously enough the lineup changes haven´t affected Nocturnus sound notably. New vocalist Dan Izzo could easily have been mistaken for Mike Browning (which I initially did), and to be honest the bass isn´t that audible so the change of bassist doesn´t mean much to the sound either.

The music on the album is a continuation but also a progression from the semi-progressive death metal sound of "The Key". While "The Key" was split between old school occult themed death metal and progressive/futuristic sounding sci-fi themed death metal, "Thresholds" takes the band fully into the sci-fi themed progressive direction. "Thresholds" is without a doubt Nocturnus most progressive album. The shift in style would leave some members unsatisfied and the disagreements over musical direction would have disastrous consequences for the band, but more on that later. The music on "Thresholds" is quite unique death metal and the addition of a permanent keyboard player in the lineup really gave Nocturnus their own sound back in the early nineties. The opening track "Climate Controller" pretty much sums up all that´s interesting about the album. The multible rythm changes, heavy and fast riffing (pretty melodic at times), loads of screaming shredding guitar solos, atmospheric keyboards, growling vocals and those sci-fi themed lyrics. The album is overall much more melodically and compositionally sophisticated than "The Key". Take it with a grain of salt though as "Thresholds" is still at it´s core old school US death metal. The band experiment more than enough to be considered progressive though. Some of the transitions and odd time signature parts might seem a bit abrupt and primitive by today´s standards but back then Nocturnus were considered a very technical act. And talking about technical skill that´s certainly one of the assets of this album too. Those guitar solos are just killer IMO. They come out of nowhere and demand attention. The tasteful use of keyboards on the album really enhance the sound and I´m pleased that they took this approach instead of plastering their sound in synth layers.

The sound quality on the album is a bit of a disappointment. It´s too muddy and lacks a bit of power if you ask me. The sound production on the debut was much better.

After the release of "Thresholds" the band went on a succesful European tour. When they returned home the above mentioned disagreements over musical style meant that Mike Browning was fired from the band. Not before Louis Panzer, Sean McNenney and Mike Davis had ensured the rights to the Nocturnus name behind Mike Browning´s back though. Needless to say that this manuevre created lots of animosity between Mike Browning and the rest of the band. Nocturnus would continue a couple of years without Mike Browning before disbanding but this was the end of the classic Nocturnus lineup. "Thresholds" stands as a testament to the creative and progressive ideas within Nocturnus and while I generally enjoy "The Key" sligthly more than I enjoy "Thresholds", the latter should probably be considered the band´s crowning achivement. Especially seen from a progressive point of view. "Thresholds" is definitely not a flawless album but it´s got charm and loads of innovative ideas and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved. A truly unique and classic Tech/ Extreme Prog Metal album.

UMUR | 4/5 |

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