Released: 2014, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Valenicia, Spain, quintet Noctem – not to be confused with Swedish Mercyful Fate sound-alikes Noctum - appear to have Dimmu Borgir/Behemoth/Septicflesh aspirations with their third album, having draped themselves in Pirates of the Caribbean-style costuming and their black/death metal hybrid in classically infused grandiosity. And while the look is rather ridiculous, the music fares much better here.
For one thing, Noctem don’t go overboard with the embellishments, using the orchestration as intros (“Enuma Elish”) and interludes (“Egregor”) for the most part instead of imposing into the songs just because – a mistake a lot of bands make. Labelmates Septicflesh, for example, who have a bona fide classical composer in their ranks in guitarist Christos Antoniou, went way overboard with their latest Titan. Noctem, however, seem to have learned from the errors of others.
While there’s an epic feel to some of the tracks, like “Eidolon” or “The Rising Horns,” in their soaring tremolo guitars, and “Halo of Repugnance” with the choral vocal parts and acoustic about-face, the band’s approach is largely as caustic and brutal as ever. “Decrepit Human Kingdom” and “Apsu Dethroned” blaze along on Vhert's furious drumming, the corrosive riffing of Exo and Nekros and demonic, paint-peeling vocals of Beleth.
“Namtar’s Crown” and “The Splint Of Destinations” show a little more dexterity and varied pace – indeed the turbulent “Splint” sounds a bit like Septicflesh in parts – but still rip and tear without the weight of added window-dressing to bog them down or overly complex arrangements to stumble over. The closing track, “The Adamantine Doors,” layers on a more pronounced string/keyboard arrangement, but it still remains mostly a background element as the band’s death metal fury asserts itself.
The two bonus tracks tacked on to the North American release of Exilium – which has been available elsewhere since last spring – thanks to Noctem’s new deal here with Prosthetic don’t really add much to the original offering. “Divine Xib’alb’a” is a brutal death metal throwaway with grating, uncharacteristically gurgley vocals, and “The Adamantine Doors (orchestral version)” is exactly as advertised - an all-orchestral version of a track that was much better when the orchestra was kept to the back.
Still, for the most part, Noctem play the classical/metal percentages on Exilium better than others. Whether this will tempt the band to take things further next time out, however, remains to be seen. But if it does, at least they nailed it here.