Nocternity spill decade into making thrilling third record ‘Harps of the Ancient Temples’

NocternitySo I’m in the process of moving, and this thing has taken so much longer to get finished than I ever imagined. We’re talking a couple of years of working to renovate the inside of a house, get our moving schedule lined up, and getting in there. It’s insane, and it’s become to topic of jokes with my friends who tease that this move never is going to happen. I am starting to believe them.

But as long as this venture has taken, it pales in comparison to the amount of time Nocternity’s third full-length opus has been in the works. The band’s last record “Onyx” arrived in 2003, and since that time the band has worked on their follow-up effort “Harps of the Ancient Temples.” That’s 12 long years if you don’t feel like doing the math. In that time, two different incarnations of the band recorded two different versions of the album—a digital and analog take, the latter of which you get on this release—so it’s not like they haven’t been putting time, effort, hours, blood, sweat, and tears into this thing. But at long last this record is here, and it sounds like nothing else that the rest of the black community has put forth in the recent past. That’s a major positive, by the way.

CDBO08V1.pdfNocternity mastermind K.G. (or Khal Drogo …no seriously) remains at the helm of the ship, maintaining his position as the band’s driving creative force and also keeping his label Kyrck Productions alive and well. Joining him in the band is long-time vocalist W. (formerly of Luna Aurora) as well as new drummer N.S. (formerly of Sadistic Noise). For this album, KD promised a less complex record than what we got with “Onyx,” but don’t go thinking they dumbed this down or anything. Far from it. Instead, we get a fully realized, ancient-style black metal assault that would have sounded right at home in the Middle Ages, when swords were claiming lives and villages were put to the torch. It’s exhilarating and mystical, with Nocternity maintaining their unique edge.

The record opens with “The Black Gates” and its dark riffing, spoken vocals that barely register above the chaos, and hissed growls that later take the lead. As the song goes on, it gets grislier and more dangerous, finally washing out at the end. The title cut has a fierce guitar burn that starts it off, with slow drumming echoing and more hushed vocals rumbling in the basement. As the vocals pick up the intensity, so do the guitars as they deliver strong riffs and hypnotic melodies that will have your head spinning. Another bit of dialog slips in, and that’s met with a chugging, churning tempo and singing that sounds like chants. “Titans” begins heavily and mightily, with harsh, gurgly growls and the band absolutely pummeling you. The guitars swelter, while the cymbals are crushed, chants rise up, and the din fades into the night. “River of Woe” is slow burning, with a mesmerizing tempo, howled vocals, and a sense of hypnotics. The track stays at its non-rushed clip, dizzying and causing you to reach for something sturdy to maintain your balance.

“B.O.D.D” has a driving pace, with the vocals rumbling hard, strong riffs raining down with force, and once again, the band trying to get your head spinning. If they’re trying to make you see visions of the past in their mind-altering music, they do a damn fine job at it as this is another that will have the room rotating on you. “Blood Rite Tree” bubbles up quickly with the guitars spiraling and growls filtering in and out of the mix. The leads are ominous, as the vocals go from dusty storytelling to vicious growls. The drums are pounded heavily, while the guitar melodies whip in and take you for a ride. “Opaline Eye of Death” feels like a storm cloud ripping open, with the guitars washing over everything and the melodies riveting. The pace takes its time, though, as it knows it has you where it wants you and can mete out damage more thoroughly. Speaking returns, like you’re being told a tale of old, and the track ends in a deep pit of sludge. Closer “Andromeda” feels humid and thick from the start, with guitars slurring and slashing, the music burning and hanging in the air, and final bits of storytelling returning to infect you one last time. The music is smeary and damaged, with the final moments grinding hard and the track taking ghost form and slipping back into its resting place.

Nocternity certainly took their time and waited until they had “Harps of the Ancient Temples” just right, and their patience and tenacity paid off. This record is very different from many of the black metal albums we are served in bulk, and its ability to mystify you and take you on a trip back into time makes this rewarding and enthralling. Who knows how long it will take for Nocternity to complete the next chapter of their musical story, but this third stop should keep us all satisfied until that moment arrives.

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