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Nocturnus AD - Unicursal review




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Reviewer:
7.4

64 users:
7.06
Band: Nocturnus AD
Album: Unicursal
Style: Technical death metal
Release date: May 2024


01. Intro
02. The Ascension Throne Of Osiris
03. CephaloGod
04. Mesolithic
05. Organism 46B
06. Mission Malkuth
07. Yesod, The Darkside Of The Moon
08. Hod, The Stellar Light
09. Netzach, The Fire Of Victory
10. Outro

Nocturnus AD rise once more to give us another showcase of technical death mastery.

For those unfamiliar, Nocturnus AD is the latest name for the band who between 2000 and 2013 went by the name After Death (a title the group initially chose to distance themselves from Mike Browning's former band, the iconic Nocturnus). This rebrand left many wondering whether their intent was to revitalize and continue the legacy of the once great technical death act that graced the world with the legendary album The Key almost 35 years ago. This ultimately turned out to be bang on the money with the release of Paradox (2019), which continued the story of Dr. Magus from where it left off nearly 30 years prior. Five years later, Unicursal tells the next chapter in the tale, and aside from newly added bassist Kyle Sokol, consists the same line-up as appeared on Paradox, specifically Browning (vocals/drums), guitarists Demian Heftel and Belial Koblak (who have been with the band since the Nocturnus AD rebrand), and keyboardist Josh Holdren.

Unicursal more-or-less continues the themes of Paradox; the album’s first half explores ancient occult themes and mysteries from the unknown, while the second half continues the story of Dr. Magus, where this time he is sent on a mission to traverse through the Spheres of the Kabbalistic Tree Of Life, and conquer each sphere and collect its respective symbol. Lyrics detail the story of Dr. Magus as he travels to Malkuth, Yesod, Hod, and Netzach, the Tree’s lower realm. This intergalactic journey is captured through 10 cleverly written and magnificently produced tracks of high-end technical death material, and I promise you, there are many surprise elements along the way.

Each track begins with its own unique synth-based atmospheric setting, whether it be the monstrously sinister opening to "CephaloGod", the tribal-like Far Eastern "Mesolithic", the cosmically theatrical "Mission Malkuth" or sci-fi horror-based, almost Lovecraftian "Hod, The Stellar Light". Instrumentally, this contains some of the most ambitious material to date for the band, even when looking back to the early work under the Nocturnus name. The song compositions have such a staggering variety that it can often become challenging to take all in at once, but at the same time, there are moments that will hook you up on first listen. 

The guitar work for a start is varied beyond comprehension, from its heavy, melodic, almost early Iced Earth-like riffs, through to technical thrashy Voivod-esque riffs, along with eruptions of tasty, ultra-rapid, shredding solos. The rhythm section carries the album forward from beginning to end in exemplary fashion; the bass is as groovy as it is technical, and the drumming is at times ultra-complex yet stylistic. Various drumming patterns feature, from thundering toms to the tribal-like rhythmic drum beats featured on the track "Mesolithic", which may sound out of the ordinary in theory, but ultimately sounds surprisingly natural. The one feature that's always set this band apart from other technical death bands is the use of keyboards, and here is no exception; the sci-fi/cosmic-themed synth work remains a striking feature throughout, not only adding to the album's atmospheric backdrop but also adding a hint of psychedelia in the vein of the mighty Hawkwind.

However, not all is an enjoyable easy listening experience; "Yesod, The Darkside Of The Moon", for instance, has moments where one can become lost in the album's sheer complexity, and there are also moments throughout the album that I feel go slightly overboard on technicality. Don't get me wrong, being technical is great, until it becomes too much, and occasionally I found this to be the case; there's some tremendous groovy moments, but I'm left wondering if it's enough.

All in all, Unicursal is a theatrical, almost sci-fi opera, with intriguing storytelling the whole way through, pushing the boundaries of technicality, introducing tribal and Far Eastern melodies, as well as incorporating elements of progressive, thrash, and both the melodic and technical sides of death metal. Is this a successful follow-up to Paradox? I'd argue it's even better; in fact, it's quite possibly the most ambitious release to date, certainly since the band's name change. However, is it the band's best release to date? Probably not when The Key is taken into consideration, but it does leave you wondering what else is to come from this band in the future.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 9





Written on 02.06.2024 by Feel free to share your views.


Comments

Comments: 10   Visited by: 86 users
02.06.2024 - 20:21
Guib
Thrash Talker
Great review Andy! I haven't had the time yet to fully plunge into this one but Im bumping it in priority haha.
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02.06.2024 - 20:27
Rating: 9
terroriser
Thanks Andy. Great review. I certainly hope they are on the way up and best is still to come.
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02.06.2024 - 20:50
Rating: 7
AndyMetalFreak
A Nice Guy
Contributor
Written by Guib on 02.06.2024 at 20:21

Great review Andy! I haven't had the time yet to fully plunge into this one but Im bumping it in priority haha.

Thanks, I have a feeling you'll like this one, I'm not gonna lie though, it's not quite The Key standards, but certainly an impressive record regardless, I'd say better than their previous, and I have a feeling their best is still to come.
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02.06.2024 - 20:52
Rating: 7
AndyMetalFreak
A Nice Guy
Contributor
Written by terroriser on 02.06.2024 at 20:27

Thanks Andy. Great review. I certainly hope they are on the way up and best is still to come.

Thanks very much, they've certainly made progress, and I believe their best is to come.
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03.06.2024 - 19:25
Cynic Metalhead
Paisa Vich Nasha
Great review, Andy.

This certainly reminds me of(as you mentioned couple of times) "The Key" - one of the best atmospheric death metal album of 90s. I still spin tracks off this incredible album.

Let me check out the new album to see how favourable it is to me comparing with preceding releases.
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03.06.2024 - 19:50
Rating: 7
AndyMetalFreak
A Nice Guy
Contributor
Written by Cynic Metalhead on 03.06.2024 at 19:25

Great review, Andy.

This certainly reminds me of(as you mentioned couple of times) "The Key" - one of the best atmospheric death metal album of 90s. I still spin tracks off this incredible album.

Let me check out the new album to see how favourable it is to me comparing with preceding releases.

Thanks, it's similar in style to The Key and follows on from the same theme, although, as expected, it's not quite the same level of quality. Still worth listening to though regardless.
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03.06.2024 - 21:37
Rating: 8
ylside
Staff
Good review man, I liked Paradox, will definitely check this then.
Very rare to find a band whose artistic "inner fire" didn't get extinguished after such a long time.
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03.06.2024 - 22:39
Rating: 7
AndyMetalFreak
A Nice Guy
Contributor
Written by ylside on 03.06.2024 at 21:37

Good review man, I liked Paradox, will definitely check this then.
Very rare to find a band whose artistic "inner fire" didn't get extinguished after such a long time.

Thanks, this album is just as good, if not better than Paradox imo, so I suspect you'll like it.
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06.06.2024 - 21:47
Rating: 8
ylside
Staff
Alright I'm going to say it, with Paradox and Unicursal, some songs are serious contenders against The Key
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14.06.2024 - 09:02
BitterCOld
The Ancient One
Admin
Playing catch-up on the year. This review has lead to the album being added to my "\m/ to check out 2024" playlist
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