The two songs I decided to join together in this 6th installment of the list come from bands who made comebacks last year — and not the kind of comebacks that tend to produce yawns or regrets. Both of the albums were excellent, and I’d go so far as to say that the first of those was one of the best comebacks ever recorded. Obviously, both of them were also home to some very addictive songs as well.
Nocturnus carved their name in the death metal history books with the groundbreaking 1990 album The Key, after which certain members of the band trademarked the name and then fired the band’s founder Mike Browning (who also co-founded Morbid Angel). He carried on with other members of Nocturnus under the name After Death, releasing a handful of demos between 2002 and 2009, and a split with Unaussprechlichen Kulten in 2012.
Last year that same After Death line-up released their first album, and in doing so resurrected the Nocturnus name, with the “AD” suffix. Entitled Paradox, it was discharged in May by Profound Lore (and was reviewed here by Todd Manning).
With The Key, Nocturnus embraced a sci-fi narrative concept, and Paradox continues the tale, albeit almost 30 years later, and does so in truly remarkable fashion. To quote from Todd’s review:
“For all their far-reaching, occult Sci-Fi weirdness, Nocturnus AD capture the raw intensity of Old School Death Metal. The originality they brought to the table back in the day surely expanded the parameters of what would become possible as the genre progressed. Paradox picks up right where they left off, and sounds as exciting and brutal as The Key did way back in 1990.”
“Precession Of The Equinoxes“, the song I’ve chosen for this list, is about the shifting of the Earth’s magnetic poles, a process that happens in cycles and now appears to be happening again. It seems to begin in media res — no intro, no build-up, just immediately in motion, and the motion is wild and whirling. The music’s battering rhythms and Browning‘s scorching howls give the music a vicious energy, while the keyboard motifs and utterly crazed fretwork create a feeling of delirious abandon.
Frequent tempo changes and bursts of instrumental pyrotechnics keep the listener bolt-upright and also off-balance, and probably wide-eyed and slack-jawed by the end. I get an electric thrill every time I hear it (as I do the rest of this fantastic album).
Formed in 1989, the Danish death metal band Konkhra had quite a run, releasing six studio albums, a live album, and a handful of other shorter releases from 1990 through 2009 — and then the machine ground to a halt. But last year, a decade later, Konkhra released a new album, and the current line-up dates back to the recordings of the early and mid-’90s.
Their comeback album, Alpha and the Omega, was released last fall by Hammerheart Records. I checked out the first two songs that had been launched for streaming before listening to the album as a whole, and those were fine choices as ways of grabbing people’s attention. I do heartily recommend the entire album, but it’s one of those first two advance tracks that has stuck in my head the hardest.
“Thoth” has a solemn, ecclesiastical opening composed of reverent choral voices, and although that soaring vocal harmony persists, it’s soon joined by bursts of thunderous bass and battering drums — and thus the neck-wrecking begins. When the guitar joins in, the music resembles machine-gun fire, although the song shifts again into brutish pile-driving chords and squealing string mutilation, and then a frenzy of blasting drums and seething riffage.
The vocals are cavernous and monstrous, adding to the song’s grim mood. And while mystical keyboard shimmers come in to amplify the music’s occult aura, the titanic grooves and automatic weaponry return as well.