Science fiction themes fit death metal so well. Nothing is more foreboding than change and progress. No environment is as dangerous as space. Nothing is as unknown or bizarre, either. Florida's Nocturnus incorporate elements of sci-fi into their original and proto-technical death metal style. Their debut full-length The Key features a sci-fi concept about a robot going back in time to kill Jesus. What is more badass than that? Nothing. They were also one of the first death metal bands to successfully incorporate keyboards into their sound without completely ruining the 'metal' part of the music.
The Key is a bit thrash-heavy at times, but so were most early death metal albums especially those produced in Florida. The vocals are the primary culprit here but when Mike Browning is doing those and playing drums at the same time, who can complain? Apparently he left Morbid Angel because Trey Azagthoth had an affair with his girlfriend, and that really sucks for Morbid Angel because his drumming performance on here is fan-fucking-tastic. Cymbal embellishments, syncopation, varied time signature changes, d-beats, blastbeats, etc. are all part of his repertoire and he exercises all of them on The Key. "Standing In Blood" is a great showcase of his intensely technical style while the entirety of the album serves as a showcase of his speed.
Guitarist Mike Davis is no slouch as well. His chops are speedy and refined. There are so many solos on The Key it's tough to count, and most of the tracks have two or three. There are a few kickass headbanging riffs as well, such as the intro to "Visions from Beyond the Grave." The latter half of the tracks tend to be a bit more keyboard-laden which is fine and fits the whole concept. By the end of "Empire of the Sands" the keyboard elements are at their strongest and most ominous. The production and mixing is one of the better jobs done in the early Florida death metal scene as well, and the guitar has a really unique tone to it. Sadly the bass isn't as audible but is still certainly present. Other than that this is a classic album that should be missed by no one.
9.0 out of 10
|1.||Lake of Fire|
|2.||Standing in Blood|
|3.||Visions from Beyond the Grave|
|5.||Undead Journey (CD Bonus Track)|
|6.||Before Christ / After Death|
|9.||Destroying the Manger|
|10.||Empire of the Sands|