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NOCTURNUS

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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Nocturnus biography
NOCTURNUS are an American progressive death metal act formed in Tampa, Florida in 1987 by drummer/ vocalist Mike Browning. Mike Browning had been a member of MORBID ANGEL from 1984-1986 ( check "Abominations of Desolation" (1991) by MORBID ANGEL to hear his contributions to that band) and when he left MORBID ANGEL he formed INCUBUS. INCUBUS turned out to be a shortlived affair though and Mike Browning left the band to form NOCTURNUS. INCUBUS guitarist Gino Marino also joined NOCTURNUS and played on both the 1987 "Nocturnus" demo and the 1988 "The Science of Horror" demo before he left the band. The lineup on the first demo also included guitarist Vincent Crowley who would later form death metal act ACHERON and bassist Richard Bateman who would later join NASTY SAVAGE. The first demo was in old school death metal style and the lyrics were based on occultism. the 1988 "The Science of Horror" demo showed the first signs of the style that NOCTURNUS would be known for. With three new members ( guitarist Mike Davis, bassist Jeff Estes and keyboardist Louis Panzer) in the lineup the band started incorporating sci-fi themed lyrics and musical themes into their music. NOCTURNUS is generally considered the first death metal act to include a keyboardist in the lineup.

Guitarist Gino Marino left the band after the 1988 "The Science of Horror" demo and new guitarist Sean McNenney joined. NOCTURNUS released their now classic full-length debut album "The Key" in 1990. An album that has sold around 70.000 copies worldwide. Bassist Jeff Estes was fired from the band after the recording of the album and the band hired new bassist Jim O'Sullivan. NOCTURNUS toured 1991 as support for UK death metal act BOLT THROWER and was later a part of the "Gindcrusher" tour with MORBID ANGEL, NAPALM DEATH and GODFLESH. bassist Jim O'Sullivan was fired shortly after the tour ended.

Before the band recorded their second full-lenght studio album in 1992 called "Thresholds" they decided to get a full-time vocalist so Mike Browning could concentrate on his drumming but alledgedly also because the Earache record company promised the band a music video if they got a "real" frontman instead of a drummer/ vocalist. Former TORTURED SOULS vocalist Dan Izzo joined NOCTURNUS as the new frontman. New bassist on "Thresholds" was Chris Anderson. "Thresholds" took the sci-fi theme even further. Leaving the occult themes a bit in the background. Something that would have great significance on...
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The KeyThe Key
Earache 2008
$12.99
$28.80 (used)
ThresholdsThresholds
Imports 2013
$11.99
The Key (Vinyl)The Key (Vinyl)
Earache Records
$21.99
NocturnusNocturnus
Moribund Records 2015
$9.00
$8.96 (used)
Ethereal TombEthereal Tomb
Floating World 2013
$37.21
$33.48 (used)
Nocturnus The Science Of Horror (Cd)Nocturnus The Science Of Horror (Cd)
Nuclear War Now!
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Nocturnus by Nocturnus (1993-10-20)Nocturnus by Nocturnus (1993-10-20)
MORIBUND RECORDS
$21.11 (used)
Key by Nocturnus (1991-07-01)Key by Nocturnus (1991-07-01)
$49.99 (used)
Sin RetornoSin Retorno
Import
$21.92
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NOCTURNUS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

NOCTURNUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.08 | 38 ratings
The Key
1990
3.76 | 22 ratings
Thresholds
1992
3.03 | 12 ratings
Ethereal Tomb
2000

NOCTURNUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

NOCTURNUS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

NOCTURNUS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.03 | 3 ratings
The Nocturnus Demos
2004

NOCTURNUS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

1.00 | 1 ratings
Nocturnus
1987
2.00 | 1 ratings
The Science of Horror
1988
2.09 | 4 ratings
Nocturnus
1993

NOCTURNUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Thresholds by NOCTURNUS album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.76 | 22 ratings

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Thresholds
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars The Tampa, FL based NOCTURNUS made its mark on the extreme metal scene all the way back in the 80s after former Morbid Angel drummer / vocalist Mike Browning created a new variety of technical death metal that included a keyboardist as well as exhibiting heavily fortified sci-fi themes with overarching concepts. After a couple of demos hitting the market, NOCTURNUS cranked out one of the most unique metal albums of the 90s with its lauded debut "The Key" which adopted a Terminator movie theme of a cyborg sent back in time to kill Jesus Christ as well as fusing the Morbid Angel styled death metal riff attacks with wickedly wild neoclassical solo tradeoffs which made NOCTURNUS one of the most technical infused death metal bands of the early 90s long before Necrophagist.

While Browning served as both drummer and vocalist on "The Key," for the band's second album THRESHOLDS which came out two years later, Dan Izzo joined the team as lead vocalist and Browning focused exclusively on drums and percussion. While the debut had a complete album concept, THRESHOLDS on the other hand tackled a wide range of topics that included climate change on "Climate Controller," indigenous issues on "Tribal Vodoun," underwater species on "Aquatica," the Metal Gear video game series on "Subterranean Infiltrator" and extraterrestrial life on "Gridzone." Musically the band expanded its sound into an even more progressive nature with more complex time signatures, more experimental compositions and even more exquisite displays of virtuosic technicalities without sacrificing the melodic hooks and thrash laden sensibilities of "The Key."

While the band stuck out from the death metal pack early on with the inclusion of the keyboard, on THRESHOLDS, the music is more varied and bolder in its displays of the usual suspects of tremolo picked riffs and pounding rhythmic drive. The keyboard contributions also continued the role of atmospheric generator taking the doom laden darkness to even more mysteriously gloomy heights but also found moments as lead instrument with equally frenetic roles that would make Keith Emerson take notice as the keyboards take on even more ambitious roles in constructing a wider range than "The Key." One of the most dynamic use of the keys is on the superb "Aquatica" which delivers underwater sounds as well as the proper extensions of ambience. Tracks like "Subterranean Infiltrator" on the other hand are all about the guitars and showcases one of the most dynamic twin guitar attacks with clever trade-offs in both the riffing as well as mind numbing soloing.

In many ways, THRESHOLDS sounds a lot different than "The Key" even though much of the stylistic approach is in tact. This album in contrast is slightly less aggressive and delves into more diverse styles of expression with quieter sections and takes license to find more experimental instrumental interplay and progressive off-kilter time signature delivers. While the production has been cited as horrendous by many, my 2013 remastered version sounds pretty good actually although the vocals sound further back in the mix than on "The Key" and although Browning's decision to add a new vocalist so that he could focus exclusively on the drums, it seems there are many segments of the album where the drums are significantly less dynamic with many moments where he is simply keeping a rather unexciting beat much like a garage band which raises the question of what may have been the true cause of his exodus from the band after this album. Was he really injured and just unable to play with the same ferocity?

This was pretty much the last true album of the original NOCTURNUS lineup. The story goes that the band members secured the trademark to the band name and kicked the founder, Browning out like an old pair of shoes. Rumor has it that it was all about which direction the band wanted to take. Browning wanted to include more occult lyrics whereas the rest of the band wanted to keep it in the sci-fi universe but like all messy relationships that take place behind closed doors, this will probably remain a secret until someone spills the beans about the actually events that unfolded. As far as occult lyrics go, it's particularly interesting how the opening "Climate Controller" refers to Kakodammu which is the word of Addu, the forty-seventh name of Marduk, defeater of the ancient ones. I find the references are directed toward the man-made climate control technologies admitted by NASA and other institutions to be of particular interest.

In many ways i love THRESHOLDS even more than "The Key." The tracks are much more interesting as individual slices tech death metal magic however the album lacks the overall cohesiveness of the debut. Add to that the drum parts are by far the biggest disappointment but despite the elements that could've used some more work, this is an excellent album that stands out not only from pretty much every other metal album that has been released but from the band's debut itself. While Browning was kicked out of his own band, the rest of the team only managed to squeak out a pathetic little EP before disbanding the following year and although there was an attempt to revive the band several years later, the album "Ethereal Tomb' didn't come close to capturing the creativity cranked out in the first two NOCTURNUS albums so as far as i'm concerned this is the end of the road for one fo the most creative metal bands of the 90s. While not quite as perfect as the debut, THRESHOLDS is still an outstanding slice of 90s extreme metal that shouldn't be missed.

4.5 rounded down

 The Key by NOCTURNUS album cover Studio Album, 1990
4.08 | 38 ratings

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The Key
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars While forever destined to go down in metal history as the ugly stepchild of Morbid Angel, one of the Tampa scene's most enduring legacies and possible greatest product of the thriving Florida death metal scene, NOCTURNUS was a very strange extreme metal band that despite being lumped into the technical death metal crowds, really existed in its own little world. The band was started by ex-Morbid Angel drummer (1983-86) and vocalist Mike Browning in 1987 after the breakup of his short-lived band Incubus (no, not that one!) however guitarist Gino Marino tagged along for a short while and after many lineup changes the band found stability with the team of Browning (vocals, drums), Mike Davis (guitar, bass), Sean McNenney (guitar), Jeff Estes (bass) and Louis Panzer (keyboards). The band cut a couple demos and then set out to create one of the most unique extreme albums of the entire era.

In the nascent years when death metal was just taking its first steps with the likes of Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary, Atheist and Autopsy introducing the world to a ramped up unforgiving style of relentless heavy metal run amok, NOCTURNUS were looking way ahead to the next level. The band stood out like a sore thumb with one of the earliest uses of an atmospheric keyboard player in the midst of a brutal guitar, bass and drum orotundity that was all the stranger for developing highly sophisticated sci-fi concepts about an evil overlord from the future sending a cyborg back in time to assassinate Jesus Christ so that the tenets of Christianity would never be allowed to take root and thus allowing the seeds of evil to gain the upper hand on a much earlier timeline. Sounds like someone was watching the Terminator movie just a wee bit much, huh?

For all its seemingly cheesified subject matter, the band's debut album THE KEY released in 1990 is a stunning powerhouse of highly developed technical extreme metal that was not only looking ahead by incorporating new aspects of metal yet to be accepted by a wider audience but was also mining the past, thus THE KEY not only fits in that awkward moment when the difference between the thrash and death metal sub-genera was a bit fuzzy but also displayed moments of neoclassical power metal as well as highly complex elements from progressive rock that were only recently finding their way into the metal paradigm. The results of this unusual for the time amalgamation of sounds is that NOCTURNUS created an unrivaled style that has scarcely been replicated even several decades after this album's initial release. Likewise the occult themes and atmospheric accoutrements portended the evolution of the black metal scene that would find its heyday in the 90s and beyond.

While the keyboard sounds which are used for intros and subdued atmospheric grounding rods of sort get the most attention as this was unprecedented at the time, the true strength of THE KEY is the dual technical guitar attacks of Davis and McNenney who combined a hefty Morbid Angel styled barrage of riffing coupled with thrash metal techniques introduced by both Metallica and Megadeth. Add to that the exquisite virtuosity of the many different sections of neoclassical soloing and it doesn't take long to realize that the guitar aspects of the album are by far the dominant features. With a very few exceptions such as the clean guitar arpeggiated intro of "BC-AD," the album provides a ferocious stampede of pummeling percussive drive and high octane guitar orotundity all glazed over by the lush ethereal keyboards that more often than not fade into the background but at key moments provide the main rhythmic stomp as the soloing frenzies are let off the leash. The only instrument that seems to be buried for the most part is the bass but there are moments when it finds their own voice and emerge from the deafening din.

NOCTURNUS' debut album may not be one that sinks into your skin instantly. It certainly didn't for me. This album took quite a few spins before its magic really grabbed me and pulled me into its idiosyncratic sci-fi imbued extreme metal soundscape and really smacked me in the face. While superficially existing in the early 90s timeline with the heavy extreme guitar riffage and Marty Friedman-esque guitar solo workouts, the intricate constructs of the progressively infused compositions takes THE KEY to an entirely new level of sophistication. This was a case where the band was a little bit ahead of its time and although NOCTURNUS released a sophomore album titled "Thresholds" in 1992 and an eponymously titled EP the following year, the band would call it quits in 93 but would reform for a third album several years later. THE KEY dishes out everything i love about old school death metal but with progressive and atmospheric twists that use the sci-fi narrative as their guide. The album is exquisitely performed and there are literally no weak tracks on this magnum opus. A slow burner for sure but one that has been gaining more steam over the ensuing decades.

 Ethereal Tomb by NOCTURNUS album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.03 | 12 ratings

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Ethereal Tomb
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Ethereal Tomb" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US death metal act Nocturnus and the bandīs first album since "Thresholds (1992)". The album was released through Season of Mist in February 2000. After the release of "Thresholds (1992)", the band ran into a lot of issues, especially with the lineup, where drummer (and former vocalist) and founding member Mike Browning was ousted, kicking and screaming, after some of the other members had secured the rights to the Nocturnus name behind his back. New drummer on "Ethereal Tomb" is Rick Bizarro. Bassist Chris Anderson has been replaced by Emo Mowery, who has also taken over the vocal duties from Dan Izzo. The three remaining members from the lineup who recorded the predecessor are Mike Davis (Guitars), Sean McNenney (Guitars), and Louis Panzer (Keyboards).

Nocturnus was one of the early Florida based death metal acts, and they made quite a name for themselves with their debut full-length studio album "The Key (1990)", as they included a keyboard player in the lineup. A very rare thing in those days. Other than having a keyboard player in the lineup of a death metal band in the late 80s/early 90s, the fact that Louis Panzer did other things than just play backing keyboards, and was a more integrated part of the bandīs sound, made Nocturnus stand out from the crowd.

Stylistically "Ethereal Tomb" pretty much continues the keyboard laden sci-fi themed death metal style of its two predecessors. The music is relatively technical and occasionally enters progressive territories, but itīs still old school death metal at itīs core. New lead vocalist Emo Mowery has a strong and commanding intelligible growling delivery, and the rest of the band are very well playing too. I think the keyboards arenīt as dominant as earlier, and they are often placed low in the mix and used as backing, but maybe they donīt seem that interesting in Nocturnus music anymore because it simply wasnīt a rare thing to feature a keyboard player in a death metal band in the year 2000. Panzer could have pulled a few tricks to keep that part of the music exciting, but unfortunately he has opted for a more restrained role on "Ethereal Tomb". One thing that hasnīt changed since the early releases by the band, are the many well played guitar solos, which really help expand the music beyond standard death metal territory.

The material is as such well written and there are some catchy parts here and there, but overall there are too many tracks which are enjoyable while they play, but forgotten as soon as they are over. So itīs certainly a bit up and down in that department. Itīs the kind of album which opens strong with "Orbital Decay", which is one of the few standout tracks on the album, and then after a couple of tracks starts to fade a bit to the background because of a lack of hooks. When that is said "Ethereal Tomb" is not a bad album by any means, and it still features many assets which makes it worth a listen or two, but it doesnīt exactly reach the heights of its two "classic" predecessors and a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Thresholds by NOCTURNUS album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.76 | 22 ratings

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Thresholds
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On their second album Nocturnus leaned even harder on the sci-fi aspects of their debut, dialling back the death metal Satanism but keeping the technical death metal virtuosity intact. With a clean production style and carefully judged keyboard work from Louis Panzer emphasising the spacey aesthetic, it might not have as gripping a concept as The Key but it's far from a major musical step backwards. As an evolution of Nocturnus' sound, it hints at the directions that the band might have gone in were it not for an extended hiatus and lineup fragmentation derailing them for much of the rest of the 1990s.
 The Key by NOCTURNUS album cover Studio Album, 1990
4.08 | 38 ratings

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The Key
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Acquiring a record deal with Earache thanks to their association with Morbid Angel, Nocturnus took death metal in a new direction with the addition of Louis Panzer on keyboards, proving to a sceptical extreme metal audience that keyboards could be as dark, sinister, and aggressive as any guitar riff. The narrative of the album might be kind of silly and juvenile (a Terminator-esque cyborg goes back in time - his target: Baby Jesus!), but it neatly demonstrated how death metal could tell stories and, indeed, tackle the concept album format just as well as any other rock music genre, and whilst the technicality of the album isn't on the level of contemporaries like Atheist and Cynic, it's still an entertaining slice of ugly Florida death metal which makes a perfect gateway drug to more esoteric technical death efforts.
 The Nocturnus Demos by NOCTURNUS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2004
2.03 | 3 ratings

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The Nocturnus Demos
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by toroddfuglesteg

2 stars A Karmageddon Media release of their two first demos on one CD.

A good idea in fact due to the demos selling for insane money on Ebay and other places. These are the two demos which launched Nocturnus onto the scene. I cannot remember those two demos, to be honest. Malevolent Creation, Morbid Angel, Atheist and Obituary (the two latter ones in their former disguises) was the bands from Florida which made the biggest impacts at that time. But Nocturnus debut album The Key changed all that.

The two demos here is acceptable, although with demo sound. Knowing Karmageddon Media too well, I don't think they did any sound improvements before they unleashed this CD. What you get is as raw as a steak tartar, direct from the bull. The music here is good and forms the basis of The Key. Hence, if you already have that album, you can safely avoid this CD. This is a decent CD, although only a collector's item.

2 stars (barely)

 Thresholds by NOCTURNUS album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.76 | 22 ratings

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Thresholds
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by toroddfuglesteg

2 stars Their debut album The Key is an excellent and genre setting album. Was it a flash in the pan, though ?

Threshold takes Nocturnus into a schience-fiction landscape. The occult stuff was left behind, in other words. The brutality and the Morbid Angel leanings from The Key was also parked. In came a very progressive sound with even some clean acoustic guitars thrown into the mix too. The synth also became a bit more prominent and the guitar solos here is pretty generic.

I think Nocturnus lost their way on Threshold. The original mix of progressive and brutality was lost. So was the sound. The sound on Threshold is pretty awful to say at least. What's left is a wishy-washy product. The quality of the songs are also pretty dire. There are some good melody lines littered around here, but that's all. Nocturnus simply lost it on this album which I cannot even call a good album. It fails on all levels and I understand why bombed compared to The Key. Hence my lack of appetite for this album.

2 stars

 Ethereal Tomb by NOCTURNUS album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.03 | 12 ratings

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Ethereal Tomb
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars A bit of a strange album, this one. The strangeness is because it is pretty standard death metal. It is also totally unlike the two first Nocturnus albums and their demos.

Gone is Mike Browning, the founder of Nocturnus. Or sacked, to be more precise. It is my personal beliefs that it was wrong of the rest of Nocturnus to release this album under that moniker.

This album is nowhere near The Key and even further away from Threshold when it comes to the sound. When that is said, this album is not as bad as the Nocturnus EP released through Moribound Records. The death metal here is actually very good. The sound is somewhere between Death and Pestilence and gone is the Morbid Angel adulation. The material here is surprisingly good mid-brutal death metal. The guitars dominates the sound though and the synths has been pushed towards the back. There is even some clean male vocals here in addition to the customary death grunths. This is a death metal album I rate.

3 stars

 Nocturnus by NOCTURNUS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1993
2.09 | 4 ratings

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Nocturnus
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by toroddfuglesteg

2 stars Umur has already described the background for this EP and I have nothing to add there (ie he has stolen my thunder). So let's go straight to the music.

This EP contains of two pretty long death metal compositions. They both has strong Morbid Angel flavours. The opening riffs and most of Possess The Priest is a straight Morbid Angel rip off, the Altars Of Madness era. The keyboards kicks in and an schism between Nocturnus and Morbid Angel opens up. But the schism is not that wide, though. Add a small dosage of Pestilence from the Testimony of the Ancients era too and you get this song. The same also goes for the second song Mummified.

Sadly, the quality is not impressive at all. Both songs are going nowhere and it is almost a crime to release this EP under the Nocturnus name. This is not the most hopeless stuff I have ever heard, but it is still pretty lame stuff. Forget this EP and stick to both The Key and Threshold. They are miles better than this EP.

2 stars (0.5 added star 'cause I like Morbid Angel)

 The Key by NOCTURNUS album cover Studio Album, 1990
4.08 | 38 ratings

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The Key
Nocturnus Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars Although few people own this album, it's influence on the scene cannot be underestimated.

This is the first ever brutal metal album which incorporated keyboards in the sound. It was an eyeopener of an album. It started a new scene. In fact, I would be so frisky to say that this album is perhaps the grandfather of Progarchives Tech/Extreme Prog Metal category. No modesty, then.

Mike Browning was the drummer in the first incarnation of Morbid Angel. For reasons I have forgotten, this incarnation of Morbid Angel broke up after the recording of Abominations of Desolation (later released in 1991) and Mike Browning started out this band Nocturnus. Morbid Angel later reformed with a new lineup and unleashed their masterpiece Altars of Madness. That's the history lesson.........

To a large extent, this album pretty much sounds like a Morbid Angel album. That is, with added keyboards and some melody too. Something which also takes this album into Death, Cynic, Sadist and Pestilence territory. The songs here are all well structured although they are based in chaotic death metal. The guitars riffs is crunching heavy and the speed is at about two hundred miles an hour. The keyboards is there to add some more texture to the sound and it succeed 100 % with that task. All credits to Louis Panzer for this job here.

The quality is surprising good. The production is not particular great and a re-master which gave the sound a bit more air would had benefited this album a lot. But this album is not basement quality either. Best of all; the songs here are all great. OK, there is no real killer tracks. But the quality never dips down under great. Thankfully, there is no boring keyboards only tracks here. This album is full on death metal all the way through.

I have owned a copy of this album since the day it was released and I am actually surprised how well it has stood the test of time. I am truly impressed by this album and awards it four stars.

4 stars

Thanks to UMUR for the artist addition.

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