February 8, 2015

Review - 'Nocturnus: The Science of Horror'

Nocturnus - The Science of Horror (2015)

Nuclear War Now! Productions

Review by Trevor Proctor

Any of us would be hard pushed to come up with an individual who’s had more of an influence in the world of extreme metal than the legend and pioneer that is Mike Browning. A founding member of Morbid Angel, Mike was also a member of Incubus during the mid to late 1980’s and another indication of his extreme talent was the fact that in addition to playing drums he also performed vocals - a rarity in any sort of music at the time, not least within the death metal sub-genre.

Some of Mike’s most famous work was with visionary band, Nocturnus who changed the sound of death metal forever by incorporating keyboards as an integral part of what became their trademark sound. These days it’s nothing out of the ordinary for keyboards etc. to be used in all of metal’s sub-genres but at the age of forty I can easily remember how ground-breaking the Nocturnus sound was – just cast your mind back to a time when the lines between the different sub-genres of metal were a lot more defined and distinct than they are these days, a time when keyboards and synth effects were unheard of within the fast expanding world of Death Metal.

The music of Nocturnus blew the doors off many who heard it and its influence in shaping the sound of today’s metal is second to none. Thankfully the use of keyboards, whilst being a bold and brave move, was also one that paid off for the band who went on to release two demos and two albums, The Key and Thresholds, before Mike’s departure in 1992 – both of which, though especially The Key, became and remain cult classics.

For three years prior to The Key’s release Nocturnus refined and perfected their sound across two demo recordings, “Nocturnus” and “The Science of Horror” which came out in very limited numbers in 1987 and 1988, respectively. The intriguing thing about these demos, especially The Science of Horror, is the presence of early versions of many of the classic tracks from The Key, tracks that eventually evolved into genre-shaping, heavily influential music.
Nuclear War Now! initially issued these two demos on one picture disc to mark Nocturnus’ appearance at NWN! Fest volume IV in November 2014. 

NWN are set to release the demos on vinyl again at another Nocturnus gig in San Francisco on 13th March 2015, in a limited quantity of 250. This red, vinyl version will showcase the original artwork from both demos and will initially be available solely to those in attendance at this gig. However, a black vinyl version is also to be released in greater quantities later this year, featuring updated artwork from renowned artist Zbigniew Bielak. The audio for both was sourced directly from the original reel recordings to enable the best possible sound reproduction.

As with a lot of demos these are rough, primitive versions of tracks that appear on the final album and herein lies the charm of these recordings. You get to hear the very musical foundations being laid that helped morph and shape some of the best death metal ever created, a bit like sitting in on rehearsals with Nocturnus, albeit a very slick rehearsal as both recordings are very, very tight musically. Both are also very good quality, especially when we consider they were both recorded well over twenty five years ago. These recordings are history in the making and their significance cannot be overstated to old (or recent) Nocturnus fans nor any fan of Death Metal in general. This is the making of your music and the demos make for a very interesting insight into the musical genius of Nocturnus – visionary pioneers of death metal.

Essential listening for old and recent fans alike, this is a major piece of Death Metal history. 


The Science of Horror Demo 2, 1988

(Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals - Mike Davis: Guitars - Louis Panzer: Keyboards - Jeff Estes: Bass - Gino Marino: Guitars)

1 - Before Christ/After Death
2 - Standing in Blood
3 - Neolithic
4 - Undead Journey

Nocturnus Demo 1, 1987

(Mike Browning: Drums, Vocals - Richard Bateman: Bass - Vincent Crowley: Guitars - Gino Marino: Guitars)

5 - Nocturnus
6 - B,C, - A.D
7 - The Entity
8 - Unholy Fury

The Science of Horror is released by Nuclear War Now! Productions on March 15th.

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