Two years removed from their debut full-length “Divinity,” Spain’s NOCTEM are back with a vengeance. Their latest creation is “Oblivion,” a mighty opus of Blackened Thrash and Death Metal that spills as much onyx blood as it does scream forth a righteously enhanced sound.
With a diverse sect of styles that frequently bring to mind the punishing rhythms of BEHEMOTH, the epic scope of NILE, and the malevolent beauty of a band like DISSECTION, NOCTEM meld these influences into a kill so fresh you’d be amiss to not hoist it atop your spit-roast listening queue. While not an utterly mind-blowing affair or innovative juggernaut, “Oblivion” is as consistently sharp a Thrash-Death album these ears have heard thus far in 2011.
Perhaps the most definitive change from 2009’s still impressive “Divinity” is the excellent production job that serves the album’s assortment of thunderous blasting and guttural belching with admirable precision and clarity. Even when instruments collide in grand profusion, everything is heard and felt accordingly; a trait that owes much to the always-stirring song structures and the never-resting-on-its-laurels attitude. This works finest when the band chomps and chugs during “Universal Disorder” and then likewise with its gentler episodes ala the rising “Q'uma'rka'aa'j.”
The amalgamated genre of Blackened Thrash and Death has been at play for many years within the Metal realm, however, what makes “Oblivion” a bit more competent than its competition, and even some of its predecessors, is the sum of its parts (is that a Mayan influence?) and the passion coursing across the record’s running time. Guitarists Exo and Helion play off one another lithely and create a dense wall of distorted melody that bass player Ul backs up with his own series of fat, running bass lines. Energetic vocalist Beleth, whose emphatic screeches and roars are certainly above the standard, occasionally drift into the trendy enthusiasm of volleying high-to-low Deathcore hysteria; style parallels aside, Beleth carries the vocal duties with a terrible angst and upon worthy, demonic shoulders. Perhaps no band member ups the ante as much as drummer, Darko, whose bottomless well of drum fills and inexorable double bass beating keeps the “Oblivion” vibe in a constant state of head-nodding aggression.
As odd as it sounds, there is practically nothing amiss with the NOCTEM’s second release. The music is tight, interesting, and well-conceived. Perhaps the only slight to “Oblivion” is the eventual air of synonymy that emerges a little more than halfway through; a quality that I believe could have been alleviated if the album’s consistently rapid pace was occasionally chilled to a quaking march or knuckle-dragging crawl. When the band does slow things down, opting to exhibit their particularly effective brand of breakdowns, such as the steam-rolling frenzy at the conclusion of “Invictus” or the side-winding venom that slithers and snaps halfway through “A Borning Winged Snake,” “Oblivion” makes that extra lumbering step towards a more Deathly and imposing style of Black-Thrash.
Fervent and intelligent, “Oblivion” is an appropriately superior successor to a strong debut that unfortunately fell upon too few ears. This time around: listen up. Your attention should be directed towards NOCTEM and their latest evolutionary stride.
Me(n)tal Note: The cover artwork was done by Brazilian designer Marcelo Vasco, who previously worked on "Divinity," as well as with other bands like DIMMU BORGIR, DARK FUNERAL, SATYRICON, BELPHEGOR, and GORGOROTH.
(Online May 28, 2011)