Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nocturn - Shades of Insanity

Nocturn, another forgotten early 90's death metal band from the Netherlands. The band split up pretty much immediately after putting out their 1991 album, Estranged Dimensions. Other than that, all they have to show for their efforts was this 7" single containing the title track which would end up on that full length a year later and a track called "Travelling Beyond" which would not be heard elsewhere. I got this off some random distro several years back for pretty cheap so, there must have been a ton of these made but you can get a copy pretty cheap on several websites devoted to this sort of thing. I did see one person asking over $100 for a copy but I doubt it's worth anywhere near that much. The label, Old World Records, put out a handful of random crap in the early 90's including several Cry of Terror releases. Notable for New Jersey collectors though is that Old World Records put out the awesome Fleshcrawler EP by Holmdel natives Dirge which contains some awesome left field death metal.

The album comes with a promo insert of other albums from bands like Cry of Terror, M.F.D, Thorns and Diet of Worms - all of which I have never heard. Definitely will be checking out the Cry of Terror releases though as well as some of the label's other oddities. Also included is an insert with the lyrics to both "Travelling Beyond" and "Shades of Insanity." The lyrics are pretty awesome death metal lyrics with a little more than typical gore topics much in the vein of other bands from the area at the time who seemed predisposed to write about other things besides hacking up prostitutes with gardening implements. The cover I really love. Old school death metal artwork featuring a slightly comedic looking skeleton arising from a landscape clearly not of this world. The Grim Reaper hovers in the background imitating the album art for the "Can I Play With Madness" single. There are skulls - apparently the size of a rhinoceros - in the background not fully shown but it looks like their owners died in middle of an awkward sexual encounter.

The music is pure old school death metal and shares similarities with other bands from the Netherlands out at the time. Though not as pile driving as Asphyx, there is the same attention to melody evident. What would The Rack sound like if played with a less body-grinding guitar tone? Nocturn sounds a whole heaping lot like Gutwrench's - a band I desperately need to review their Wither Without You demo - faster moments. Opening track to this short 7" is the title track, "Shades of Insanity," which starts off with a Bolt Thrower-esque melody. The rhythm section of brothers Robert and Stef Weerkamp on Bass and Drums respectively is tight and provides a great foundation for guitarists Brian Haverkamp and Edwin Woerdman to toss leads and melodies on top off. Most of this first track has a plodding tempo. Vocalist Boudewijn Bruggeman (B.B) has a raspy, hoarse voice not nearly as guttural or low as other memorable acts. Second track, "Travelling Beyond," appears on this release only. It's faster than the title track, kicks into a breakdown a little over a minute into the track, continues on with some fast thrashy drumming. My favorite vocal moment appears during this breakdown. B.B croaks out the lyrics "A part of their machines... crying behind his iron mask," where the breakdown shifts to a slightly bitter melody.

This 7" is what death metal is all about for me. The playing is honest, mistakes are evident on tracks in places but it doesn't really matter because there is so much character in the songs. It's not some pristine release. Classic underground death metal from a band that barely received any attention but their wax is still circling around out there because there is something within that makes it good enough to not throw out. I think this is better than just good though. The two tracks here show Nocturn as a band with some legitimate potential which they realized on their full length, "Estranged Dimension."

* I listed this as New Jersey Metal for the reference to Dirge and their EP released by Old World Records.

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