A veritable institution, NOCTURNAL have been flying the flag of hate and inciting a riot of violence since the year 2000. Helmed by founding guitarist Avenger (whose other credits are far too vast to list here), NOCTURNAL set about their prolific course with a flurry of demo tapes and splits with the likes of Nunslaughter, Vomitor, Bestial Mockery, and Toxic Holocaust among others, all culminating in their momentous Arrival of the Carnivore debut album in 2005. Back then, hailing the old Teutonic gods of thrash – namely the “Big Three” of Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction, but not withstanding Deathrow, Assassin, Exumer, Darkness, Violent Force, and Necronomicon as well as Razor and early Sepultura abroad – was rather unfashionable, but it was NOCTURNAL who had the last laugh, as the second worldwide thrash resurgence was about to begin, and there they stood, undaunted and defiant.
Thereafter, NOCTURNAL continued to honor the old underground ways with another flurry splits and vinyl EPs, before second LP Violent Revenge arrived in 2009. Thus far, NOCTURNAL’s albums were more finely honed and better-produced expressions of those prolific UG releases, and they kept apace with that schematic through the release of their third LP, Storming Evil, in 2014. By then, lineup troubles had begun to plague the band and slow their momentum, and thereafter was all quiet on the Western front. But at long last, the ultimate revenge arrives with Serpent Death!
As aptly titled as any NOCTURNAL full-length so far, Serpent Death slithers and strikes with a venomous menace. Arguably the band’s best-produced as well as best-played record to date, Serpent Death loses not an ounce of power and poignancy; if anything, NOCTURNAL sound more energetic than ever, revitalized and ripping and defying their seemingly advanced age. Whereas the preceding Storming Evil perhaps leaned too much on the cleaner side of things, Serpent Death is robustly analog, flexing both muscle and clarity, all while remaining steadfastly analog. Further, there’s more (but subtle) twists in the songwriting and dynamics, evincing an ageless metal wisdom whilst not sacrificing any urgency in the process. Avenger, as always, is an absolute riff-machine, firing off memorable lines right and left, but he’s more-than-ably backed up by a blood-red-vital rhythm section in bassist Incinerator and drummer John Berry. New vocalist Invoker has a rougher and more hollering voice, perfectly suited for these classic metal-inclined tunes. So, less “sharp” pure thrash and more “warmer” traditional metal: it’s a trade-off that pays in spades on Serpent Death.
Timeless, eternal, both behind the times and ahead of ‘em – there’s few bands with a body of work quite like NOCTURNAL. Even if it’s another five-plus years between albums, Serpent Death handily satisfies with a sound that’s so old, it’s new!