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The Key

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Album Review

When Nocturnus was formed in the late '80s, the Tampa residents did something that was most unusual for a death metal/thrash outfit at the time — they employed a keyboardist (Louis Panzer). It wasn't unusual for mainstream metal and hard rock bands to use keyboards, but it was hardly typical in the underground world of death metal, thrash, and grindcore. Nocturnus, of course, didn't want to be typical, which is why The Key is among the more interesting death metal releases of 1990. The Key has all of death metal's trademarks: insanely fast tempos, demonic vocals (which are provided by Mike Browning), occult-minded lyrics, and a love of brute force and sledgehammer aggression. But the tempos do vary, and Panzer's keyboard harmonies set this CD apart from most of the death metal that was recorded in the late '80s and early '90s. This isn't to say that The Key isn't blistering; even though Nocturnus was more musical than many of its death metal contemporaries, no prisoners are taken on this bone-crushing classic.

Customer Reviews

Definately unique

In a world today filled with posers and crap metal with only a few good new bands and some old ones keeping metal alive, this oldie is certainly refreshing. After listening to extreme metal for over a year, I can safely say that I've never heard a band like this before. The suitably technical and jaw-dropping riffing in songs like Standing in Blood compared with such amazing keyboard passages like in Andromeda Strain will always keep you headbanging along, and I don't headbang alot. Another thing that I've never actually done before, but my jaw seriously was dropping during the whole Standing in Blood song the first time I heard it. The drumming isn't that good, but its ok, and for me, the guitars and keyboard stood out so much that the drumming did not detract from any of the songs. Buy it! Now! PS. to anyone who actually read my entire long-winded and unescessarily wordy review: I applaud you

Morbid Angel in Space

Mike Browning must have gone insane after leaving Morbid Angel. What we have here is something even more insane than Altars of Madness, and it has keyboards! It's a bit of a concept album about a Satanic cyborg from the future who goes back in time to kill Jesus (no, seriously). The music is bizarre enough to back up the story, melding mind-bending death/thrash and technical melodic solos with space-age keyboards. Probably one of the more original albums to come out of the late 80s / early 90s death metal movement, I think.

The music of my childhood

After I lost the original tape, I though I lost the Key for good- but here it is, in all its iTunes glory, still available after all these years. It goes to show what a death metal classic it is. For starters, there's the great verbiage: approach is if you would most DM lyrics, that is hide your brain in the sock drawer and then- take a sci-fi detour! For once, you get a small but worthy break from all the texts about Satan and sinners boiling in blood. That does not stop the instruments from raising hell; there's more interesting and well organized musical chaos going on in one song here than dozen other albums put together. The whole band crackles with energy and whips up some serious death metallical music skills, and then some- how many other guitar players really let loose and yet manage to stay on the beat. The vocals are heavily processed but the growl is as good as it gets. And the keyboards, finally, they're put to good use, occasionally making this music sound like prog rock on acid, but overall giving it unique sound. And "Lake of Fire"- what an opening! Space age Satan could never have dreamt of a better send off. Nocturnus was a one time, well, two time, studio only and decisively weird deal and the Key may not be the best death metal opus ever- I wonder what it would sound like with Dave Lombardo on drums and Rick Rubin behind the mixing board- but it's great to have it back.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Tampa, FL death metal band Nocturnus was formed in the late 1980s by singer/drummer Mike Browning, guitarists Mike Davis and Gino Marino, bassist Jeff Estes and keyboardist Louis Panzer. Following the demo Science of Horror, the group swapped Marino for guitarist Sean McNenney prior to recording its 1991 Earache label debut The Key. Vocalist Dan Izzo signed on for 1992's Thresholds, which also saw bassist Chris Anderson substituting for Estes; Anderson himself was replaced by bassist Emo Mowery for...
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The Key, Nocturnus
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