Style: Black/Thrash Metal
Release Date: 28 Jun 2019
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Nocturnal Breed have never been the most prolific band. They formed in Oslo in 1996, but this is only their sixth studio album and their fourth in this millennium. Fans must be celebrating, because this only took five years to follow its predecessor, unlike the seven that has become almost traditional. That's far from busy for a band who never split up.
I've heard them before, here and there, but don't recall them standing out. This album, however, blisters and I suddenly wonder what I've been missing. They make an unholy racket, which I think they'd take as a real compliment, given that they merge black metal into their core speed metal sound, overt in the vocals of S. A. Destroyer, some of the lyrics, and in the occasional hyperspeed blast from drummer Tex Terror.
Once I got used to the sound, heard speed metal over everything though. The opener, Choke on Blood, reminds of Sodom, as they often do. The title track has that buzzsaw sound that I remember from bands like Razor and Exciter in the early eighties, but with the benefits of excellent modern production and a real urgency that reminds of punk and brings us back to Sodom again.
What's most interesting is how they don't really move back and forth between the two genres. Occasionally black metal wins out, like on the wall of sound in War-Metal Engine, but mostly they just combine the sounds. That means the fast paced assault of speed metal but with wilder vocals that go beyond even the punkier thrash bands. Destroyer often sounds like a cross between Martin Walkyier's Sabbat days and Schmier from Destruction.
As the album runs on, the clinical speed sound gives way somewhat to a wild thrash sound. Desecrator especially fits that bill, because it's a gorgeous mosh pit song. It's a blistering two and a half minutes of driving rhythms, a neat solo, pauses and escalations, the works. It's fantastic stuff and it has to be my favourite track on the album.
Just to confuse, there's a heavy/power influence here too, as we discover on the delightfully titled Sharks of the Wehrmacht (I'd pay to see that movie). It kicks off with a riff worthy of classic Accept, though Destroyer doesn't sound remotely like Udo Dirkschneider, with his banshee shrieks of vocals. He's really lively though, relishing everything the way Cronos did but with that Walkyier intonation and theatricality.
I'm really digging these modern bands and their modern production taking on the extreme metal of the early eighties. They're making me want to go back and work through a bunch of my vinyl from that era to refresh myself on how much fun it all was back then. There's plenty of early Bathory in War-Metal Engine, some Agent Steel in the groove of A Million Miles of Trench, even a little Mercyful Fate on Can't Hold Back the Night.
The vocals often distract from comparisons but these songs are unashamedly old school and their energy can't be denied. I'm having a blast this year immersing myself in the variety of what's coming onto the market, but every old school release like this suggests that I should go backwards to 1983 or 1984, right before I discovered what rock music was, and explore what I may have missed back then or rediscover what I've forgotten. This is fun!