Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Nocturnus - The Key CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.10 | 38 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Key" is the debut full-length studio album US, Florida based death metal act Nocturnus. The album was released through Earache Records in August 1990. The only change in the lineup since the "The Science of Horror (1988)" demo tape is that guitarist Gino Marino has been replaced by Sean McNenney. The original vinyl release features 9 tracks while the CD version of the album features "Undead Journey" as a bonus track (it was not unusual in the late 80s/early 90s to include bonus tracks on CD versions of albums, to try and make people buy CDs instead of vinyl). While the addition of keyboards/synths on the "The Science of Horror (1988)" demo provided Nocturnus with a unique sound on the Florida death metal scene, it was with "The Key" that the band really put themselves on the map.

All four tracks from the "The Science of Horror (1988)" demo are featured on "The Key" in re-arranged versions but all four demo tracks are all quite excellent material and itīs not audible which tracks are older demo tracks and which are more recently composed. The lyrics are a mix of occult and sci-fi themes. The album is actually a concept album with a pretty bizarre story. Itīs about a cyborg which travels back in time to the year 0 BC and this brings upon the destruction of christianity and the creation of a modern empire.

The music on the album is semi-progressive death metal rooted in old school US death metal similar in style to an act like Morbid Angel. Nocturnus are s bit different from the rest of the late 80s/early 90s US death metal scene though as they have a keyboard player in the lineup. Keyboards donīt automatically mean that youīre a progressive artist but Nocturnus have quite a few other interesting qualities that make them progressive to my ears (their next release "Thresholds (1992)" is more progressive than "The Key" though). Nocturnus experiment with song structures and tempo and time signature changes too and those features combined with the keyboards result in "The Key" being at least a semi-progressive death metal album. Personally I consider "The Key" one of the most groundbreaking proto-progressive death metal albums and bands like Pestilence, Sadist, and Theory in Practice owe a lot to Nocturnus.

The vocals featured on the album are raspy growls and in addition to that there are no shortage of crushingly heavy riffs, fast tremolo picking, and screaming shredding guitar solos in addition to the spacy and eerie keyboard sounds featured on the album. Tracks like "Lake of Fire", "Standing in Blood", and the closing track and perhaps most progressive track on the album "Empire of the Sands", are excellent examples of why "The Key" is such a great album. Donīt expect tech death metal on the virtuosic level of Atheist or Cynic though, this is much more old school but still very innovative and well-played.

There are few weak elements on the album, but if I have to mention a weak link it would be drummer/lead vocalist Mike Browning. His vocal style isnīt the most powerful one Iīve heard and his staccato delivery is a bit one-dimensional. His drumming isnīt the most creative either but despite my issues with his skills he gets the job done without distracting too much. The album was recorded at the now legendary Morrisound Studio at Temple Terrace, Florida, with producer Tom Morris and although later death metal productions from that studio are more well sounding and brutal, this one has a certain raw charm to it, which makes it a great listen to. The beautiful cover artwork by Dan Seagrave is another great feature of the album, which further enhances the dark occult sci-fi atmosphere of the album.

"The Key" is one of the most important early 90s death metal albums in my book. The inclusion of keyboards and the way they are used on the album were groundbreaking at that point in time, and paired with the occult sci-fi themed lyrics and cover artwork, this is a pretty unique release, which was greatly influential on subsequent technical/progressive death metal artist (some of them are mentioned above). "The Key" fully deserves a 4 star (80%) rating.

UMUR | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this NOCTURNUS review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives