Metal Redux: Nocturnus – Thresholds (1992) (Technical Death Metal)

Written by Steven

  • The Band – Nocturnus  (1987-1993, 1999-2002)
  • The Album – Thresholds
  • Country of Origin – United States
  • The Year – 1992
  • Lineup – Dan Izzo (vocals), Mike Davis (Guitars), Sean McNenney (Guitars),  Louis Panzer (Keyboards),  Mike Browning (Drums)
  • Genre – Technical Death Metal
  • Metallum Average – 12 Reviews at 70% Average

Other notable releases from 1992 for context – Soul of a New Machine (Fear Factory), Vulgar Display of Power (Pantera), The End Complete (Obituary), Images and Words (Dream Theater)

“LORD ADDU, MASTER OF THE EARTH AND SKY
KAKODAMMU,
I CALL TO THEE, HEARKEN AND REMEMBER
BRING FORTH THE MIGHTY STORM THAT THIS WORLD SHALL TASTE YOUR FURY”

… and thus begins the Tech Death / Science Fiction / Occult inspired release Thresholds, by Florida Death Metallers, Nocturnus, and the opening track “Climate Controller is off and running.

Lyrics from Climate Controller

“STORMS – manufacturated to destroy
FIRE – striking down from the sky
WIND – sweeping all rocks and trees aside
LAVA – emerging out of volcanoes
QUAKES – shake the earth to split
DEATH – from the clouds

ARMIES – marching in to their doom
SPIRITS – plundering their very souls
IONS – displaced from deep inside
WEAPONS – of the Gods

FUSION OF THE ANCIENT WAYS
WITH MODERN TECH SUPPORT
BRINGING ATMOSPHERIC CHANGE
MASTER OF CLIMATE CONTROL”

Back in the day, this was death metal done different. Look at the cover art by Pete Knifton … A freak’n spaceship!

Futuristic themed sound effects, a keyboardist and virtuosic guitar shredding at an insane level, complex songs with crazy death thrash structures infused with classical music riffing, and of course raspy death metal vocals.

.. but wait this is death metal isn’t it?   Yes, and this was something very different.

Sci-fi themed death metal is well accepted and very popular nowadays (just look at Blood Incantation) … and I think its fair to say that these guys were one of the pioneers.

This was in-your-face tech death that was perfectly suited to the song themes, and concept which this album presented.  Just listen to the song Arctic Crypt (especially from the 3.10 mark) … complex, crazy sweep picking galore.

Released on the Earache label, there was some fair hype for this album, including plenty of MTV airplay for the song ‘Alter Reality’.  The main man for Nocturnus was the drummer, Mike Browning (vocalist on their 1st mainstream release, The Key (1989)). He had some serious credibility straight off the bat, as he was the original drummer and vocalist for Morbid Angel, performing those tasks on Abominations of Desolation (recorded 1986 released 1991), and his connection to Trey was the catalyst for being signed to Earache.

On the website, Rebel Extravaganza, Mike Browning said the following in a recent interview about Nocturnus and his love of sci-fi

“When I was a kid in the ’70s, the big thing for me was going to the store and getting comic books. Back then there was no Internet, no cellphones. Back then you watched TV or you read, that was it. The TV didn’t have that much on back then but I did get to see shows like Star Trek, Space:1999 and I was especially big on the show UFO. Night Gallery and Kolchak, The Night Stalker…all that stuff was huge to me. When I started getting into music, I wanted to mix all of this together.”

I remember really enjoying this album, mainly for the different sounds it introduced into the death metal spectrum. The keyboard worked really well, and although now possibly a tad outdated, the sound effects were awesome and a lot of fun. And the guitar work was insane.

I’ll never forget blasting Nocturnus on my car stereo, and pulling up at some traffic lights with the song Subterranean Infiltrator about to play. The war type machine gun / lazer fire / explosion sound effects confused the heck out of the nearby motorists, who could not figure out what the hell they were hearing.

The Last Word – Arguably The Key is a better album than Thresholds, but for me Thresholds was more interesting, and ground breaking in terms of really pushing for something different, and adding another possibility into the realm of death metal.  The commitment to the sci-fi concept was inherent in every aspect of the album, and without Thresholds, I doubt that sci-fi & tech death would be where it is today.

Check out this Spotify Playlist with all the albums so far featured in Noob Heavy Metal Redux

Footnote – In the middle of 1999, Mike Browning (vocals, drums), Richard Bateman (bass), and Gino Marino (guitars) – all of the first original line-up of Nocturnus in 1987 – reformed as Nocturnus A.D. with Mike Walkowski on guitars, replacing the only other original member from 1987, Vincent Crowley (Acheron).

Here is the video for the track Apotheosis from their album Paradox (2019)

About Steve - Abyss Abyss 12 Articles
I do the music for the band Aeons Abyss. I have been into Metal since the mid 80s, growing up in country Victoria, Australia. Some of my favourite bands include Morbid Angel, Slayer, Obituary, Bolt Thrower, King Diamond, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden. Over the past 3 years I have become a massive fan of underground metal, and for me, the scene is very much akin to the tape trading days when metal first started; now the tapes are Bandcamp, Spotify and Youtube, and social media is our tool to network with other underground metal fans from all over the world. A little about my band: Aeons Abyss formed in 2017 for a recording project commencing with music written in the early to mid nineties under the band name Cataclysm. We have two releases from 2019, our debut EP Pity Eloquence, and our LP, Impenitent. Our music is on all streaming platforms, and Bandcamp, where we also sell our merch direct to fans. We are currently working on our next release, a concept album, that will be released late 2020 / early 2021 (date TBC).

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