Nocturnus AD
Unicursal

When founding Nocturnus member, drummer/vocalist Mike Browning, resurrected the Nocturnus spirit, by adding the AD at the end I was very intrigued.  I was a huge fan of Nocturnus, their first 2 albums and saw them on the Grindcrusher tour, in support with of their debut The Key, with Napalm Death, Godflesh, and Confessor on the tour.

Mike did not stick around for the other Nocturnus releases and when the debut Nocturnus AD album Paradox, dropped in 2019, it blew me away.  I even bought the long-sleeve design and the album is the true third album, after Thresholds in the Nocturnus discography.  I love the album, it captures the true nature of the band, with their satanic, anti-religious, time travel space-themes mumbo jumble and memorable songs.  Returning for the follow-up, Unicursal, is pretty much the same line-up Demian Heftel and Belial Koblak on guitars, Josh Holdren on keys, and Kyle Sokol making his debut on bass.

Unicursal has eight songs, along with an intro and outro, 10 songs in a whopping hour, with a fantastic and whimsical album cover.  The opening instrumental equipped with keys and space sounds, is terrific, and I feel it’s 1990 yet again.  “The Ascension Throne of Osiris” blasts right out of the starting gate and I notice a thinner production than on Paradox and Mike erupts with a less powerful gruff barking vocal delivery, but for some reason, there seems to be a lack of power.  This could be due to the thin production.  The opening is fast and guitars are technical in sound which is certainly a staple for the band, and the keys are very catchy.  Some of the drum beats are quite good, at times, but the fast parts are lacking in power, with some awkward patterns, which do not gel completely.

“CephaloGod” is next with an otherworldly intro to get things started.  A nice pounding drum beat and guitar riffing comes forth with terrific keys, transporting us to the signature Nocturnus sound.  Vocals are lacking in power and are a bit buried/muffled in sound.  Cool noodly soloing is happening but the fast parts fly by without staying power.  The slower, or should I say, galloping moments of this track stand out so much more than the faster parts. After these less than five-minute numbers the band shifts towards exceedingly longer songs and without including the four-minute outro these next songs have an average length of 7 minutes, with several songs close to nine minutes.  For this type of technical/exploratory music, Nocturnus AD writes, this is overkill on the listener.

“Hod, the Stellar Light” is one of those 8+ minute songs starting with some dazzling starlight keyboards, which are beautiful and the shift to the mid-paced crunch is great, but the vocal laugh soon thereafter, is quite cringy.  The vocoder effect Browning uses on this song are neat, though, however lacks power, to coincide with the music.  There are plenty of solos and atmospheric moments and the galloping moments are headbang-worthy.  For the most part, though, it’s difficult to find anything truly memorable, other than maybe the keys solo nearing the end.

“Netzach, the Fire of Victory” has fascinating guitar solos, but these spoken word type of vocals Browning pretty much does for the album’s duration is a mixed bag of sorts – there is no power to them, and they just add really nothing special.  What I am trying to say is they detract more from the sound then positively add to it.

I am not sure what happened with Nocturnus AD on Unicursal, since the awesome Paradox, as the majority of the band is intact since then.  The band opting for this much longer timeframe and at an hour’s length, the album is 15-20 minutes too long.  Had the production, vocal delivery, and the songs been streamlined a lot more, I feel this would have been a far better album.  Overall this is not nearly as catchy as past efforts and quite a number of parts are pretty boring.  If the band is going forward with delivering another album, down the road, maybe Browning should consider focusing more on the drum work and the band bring in a singer who can match the power that I know the band possesses.  The keys on this album are fantastic and the album cover is beyond striking.  However, I do not continue to listen to albums based on an awesome cover and keyboards, unless the rest of the music and vocals deliver.  The band can do much better.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
June 3rd, 2024

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