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Nocturnus - Thresholds CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.75 | 18 ratings

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4 stars "Thresholds" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Florida based death metal act Nocturnus. The album was released through Earache Records in December 1992. Thereīs been a few changes to the lineup since the release of the debut album "The Key (1990)" as 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 vocal duties. 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 havenīt 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 isnīt that audible so the change of bassist doesnīt 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 (1990)". While "The Key (1990)" 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 the 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 90s. The opening track "Climate Controller" pretty much sums up all thatīs interesting about the album. The multible rhythm 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 melodic and compositionally sophisticated than "The Key (1990)". Take it with a grain of salt though as "Thresholds" is still at itīs 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 todayīs standards but back then Nocturnus were considered a very technical act. And while Iīm mentioning technical skills thatīs certainly one of the assets of this album. Those guitar solos are just killer IMO. They come out of nowhere and immediately demand your attention and blow you away. The tasteful use of keyboards on the album really enhance the sound and Iīm pleased that they took this approach instead of plastering their sound in synth layers.

With all the positive things said above itīs a bit unfortunate that the sound quality on the album is a bit of a disappointment. Itīs too muddy and lacks power and bite. 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 Browningīs 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 (1990)" sligthly more, "Thresholds" should probably be considered the bandīs crowning achivement. Especially seen from a progressive listeners point of view. "Thresholds" is definitely not a flawless album but itīs got charm, loads of innovative ideas, and a unique sound, and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

UMUR | 4/5 |


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