Nocturnal Breed - We Only Came for the Violence - (7.5/10)
Published on September 8, 2019
A highly sporadic release schedule has hampered Nocturnal Breed from breaking through to bigger things, though that seems equally true of many of their compatriot black thrashers, such as Aura Noir and Nekromantheon. A part of not giving a fuck is not giving a fuck about producing music regularly, it seems. That said, it’s not like much changes between each full-length (six now for Nocturnal Breed), with influences forever rooted in the misanthropic speed and dirt of original German thrash, which gets a minor adjustment into grimmer territories due to an upgrade of pace, extremity, and themes. As before, We Only Came for the Violence focuses squarely on war as its theme, specifying that topic occasionally for songs like “Sharks of the Wehrmacht” and “Nekrohagel”, which scud in from another German angle, while the cover art and atmospheric closer “A Million Miles of Trench” suggest more of the earlier World War.
The imagery of the album thus stands up to scrutiny, that gas-masked nun-mummy artwork looking like something from a nightmare propaganda poster, not to mention the apt and ever-chilling full quotation from Robert Oppenheimer on the album intro “Iron Winter”. Musically speaking, Nocturnal Breed sound just as bloodthirsty as what they relate, savaging thrash riffs with murderous speed and sharpening the assault into barbed-wire meshes of clanging black metal when greater nastiness is required. Thus, “War Metal Engine” needs no great technical feats from the guitarists to imbue the sense of bleakness and inevitable end that global war births, grey tremolos drudged up in front of slugged out blastbeats like the last throes of a dying soldier. Mid-tempo songs of this nature simply become grisly wastelands for the dead, spiced up by gang shouts from the millions sent to their doom.
Desolation in the house of Nocturnal Breed is often of a different type, however, and there’s nothing mid-paced about it. The longer, more textured songs seem like a hangover from Napalm Nights in 2014, when the quartet indulged in lengthy compositions, yet the early part of We Only Came for the Violence stands in stark contrast to the reflective, even melodious, likes of “Can’t Hold Back the Night” with its extended Maiden-esque lead. Few fans can forget that the preceding album to Napalm Nights was Fields of Rot, which set a high standard for brutal three minute smackdowns of extreme thrash, and happily that is where the inspiration for “Choke on Blood” and the title track comes from. The chilling sprint and screams of the former wastes no time in attacking, detouring through uncanny, twisting riffs that Aura Noir know all about, dropping in a sinuous solo that proves to be one of the more considered aspects of such violent cuts.
Balancing the tendencies of the two most recent full-lengths seems like a smart move, allowing Nocturnal Breed to branch out via more creative forms while also maintaining their beloved aggression. On the other hand, the formula can’t guarantee the best of both worlds: the thrashier songs burn themselves out rather quickly without leaving a strong mark, only for the steadier cuts to prove more memorable. S.A. Destroyer trading off lamenting vocals with a crow in “A Million Miles of Trench” is just about the most typical black metal moment on the release, but proves one of the most affecting as well; juxtapose that with “Frozen to the Cross” and its display of very capable mid-period Darkthrone, which comes off as passable yet uninspiring. Aside from nice detailing of the leads and melodies in “Nekrohagel” and “Limbs of Gehenna”, the vocals offer the greatest rewards, particularly when “We Only Came for the Violence” springboards off tight speed thrash into a rabid delivery partway between a blackened David Bower (Hell) and Schmier (Destruction), shrieked rolled Rs and all. The amazing shock value makes that a special song.
Other standout cuts are not in abundance, though saying that Nocturnal Breed shortchange fans or fail to deliver on We Only Came for the Violence couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply, the goods are delivered once more in the same old style, and the same old feeling is felt once more. Few metalheads would come to such an album looking for a revolution, provided that the fury and energy of the performance is high enough, so most aims are achieved. Bearing in mind that the impact of such music would be lessened gradually by repeated exposure, perhaps the reason for the sparse releases of Norway’s black thrash horde becomes more apparent. Either way, Nocturnal Breed are back for now and want to destroy – as much as they can, while they can.