Nocturnus – Etheral Tomb

Reviewed: September 2000
Released: 2000, Season of Mist
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson

Man, of all bands to reform, I never thought Nocturnus would! Without a doubt, this band was one of the most original death metal bands of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. What set them apart from all other bands (and what kept them from making it into every death metal fan’s collection) were the keyboards. They were a huge part of the band’s sound, and had a dominant position on Nocturnus’ first two albums The Key and Thresholds. But the guitars also dominated the band’s sound. Mike Davis and Sean McNenney were the virtuosos of death metal, filling every song with astounding riffs and jaw-dropping leads. Aside from the keyboards, it was the lead guitars that helped make the band unique, for they were all over the place in every song. Whether it was a full blown solo in the middle of the song, or a quick three-second shred during a verse, these lead guitars were right up there with the likes of Ripping Corpse and Morbid Angel.

Ethereal Tomb retains the classic Nocturnus sound and style, evidence that the chemistry between these musicians hasn’t died! However, the band has matured from their rough start many years ago. The songs are a little more simplistic, as far as arrangements go. But fear not, the technical guitar work is still present, as is the mindblowing lead work, albeit not as over-the-top as before. This time, the keyboards reside in the background, as opposed to the upfront domination on past material. They give Ethereal Tomb atmosphere, as opposed to simply competing with the two guitars for the spotlight. The lineup still consists of Mike and Sean on guitar, and Louis Panzer on keyboards, all three of which have been on every release thus far. Vocals and bass are handled by Emo Mowery, who had played bass on the Possess the Priest EP. Vocally, he sounds closer to Dan Izzo (vocalist on Thresholds and Possess the Priest) than original vocalist (and drummer) Mike Browning. One new element is the clean vocals in a few spots. Don’t expect magical, majestic power metal vocals though! Drums on Ethereal Tomb are played by newcomer Rick Bizzaro. His performance is nothing out of the ordinary, but his playing is solid and much more cohesive than Mike Browning’s.

With Ethereal Tomb, Nocturnus have not set out to play as fast and evil as possible, nor overwhelm the listener with technical insanity, nor indulge in tunes of bodily dismemberment and decapitation. Ethereal Tomb is a solid, well-crafted, atmospheric progressive sci-fi death metal album. But most of all, it’s different. After all these years, Nocturnus still has what it takes to sound different from everyone else. It took me years to truly appreciate The Key and Thresholds. And others still laugh at the band for what they tried to do. But regardless of what you think of Nocturnus, Ethereal Tomb deserves your attention, especially if you’re sick of all the typical black, death, and gore metal bands out there today. Check out the band’s web site here: Also check out the Season of Mist site here:


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