Nocturnus AD finally able to continue ‘The Key’ plots with stunning cosmic opus ‘Paradox’

“Game of Thrones” just ended this week, and people are super pissed. The author of the story didn’t finish his work in time, so the two people who were in charge of directing the show had to tell another person’s tale. The reaction from people all over the place has been less than enthusiastic, and most people can’t help but wonder what could have been had the other two texts been completed.

It’s possible that whole story would make Mike Browning laugh. He’s had to wait nearly 30 years to continue the story he started on Nocturnus’ 1990’s cosmic death metal classic “The Key,” and in the time since that landmark record arrived, Browning lost his spot in the band he founded, and he did what he could to find his own with After Death. Now, 28 years later, Browning has returned with Nocturnus AD and have a massive new album “Paradox” that is viewed to the follow-up to “The Key” and the continuation of the story he initially laid out. On this album, we follow Dr. Magus after his body is ravaged by an alien disease and he is kept intact by use of a bio suit. Browning is joined by his After Death mates—guitarists Demian Heftal and Belial Koblak, bassist Daniel Tucker (formerly of Obituary), and keyboard master Josh Holdren—as they forge a path back into the universe for more tales of horror and chaos, with music that’ll twist your brains inside and out.

“Seizing the Throne” begins with keys whirring and hovering before the song is torn open with thrashy intent and Browning’s growls sounding evil. The playing is goddamn delirious, which easily makes the room spin, while the maniacal storytelling reaches its apex on this song, slowly ramping down to its finish. “The Bandar Sign” begins with more spacey synth with Browning’s vocals raspy but intelligible as he observes as the “soothsayers shed their skin, dressed in black hooded robes.” The guitars mash while the keys send bolts of energy, coming upon a scene where priests are carrying out sacrifices as the track warps out. “Paleolithic” fires up right away, as Browning spits out his words, turning crazed in a hurry. The guitars explore while the keys remain engaged in mania, with daring weirdness welling up, the vocals jabbing the heart, and the song coming to a dramatic close. “Precession of the Equinoxes” is punishing as hell, while the keys achieve an alien carnival feel, and the vocals scrape at the skin. The guitars flutter, giving off cool prog winds, while the words later are barked out, and the song manages to be pretty fucking fun amid all the chaos.

“The Antechamber” bursts open and makes anyone in their way dizzy as hell. Browning’s vocals delivery doesn’t vary much, which is part of the charm, as he wails, “Now I hold the key to the mysteries from beyond,” while he’s surrounded by music that strikes out in fury.  “The Return of the Lost Key” is mystical at first, floating in the air, before the track is torn open, and guts are spilled all over. The guitars are blazing and go off, while Browning howls, “I have the power to change history,” as the doctor holds the magic key that set into motion that time-altering events of this album’s predecessor. “Apotheosis” has a rush of robotic noise before the track punches out and unleashes some bizarre antics followed up by thrashing skullduggery. The track is warp speed and feels not of this earth, as soloing wraps this thing up in a strange, sinewy bow. “Aeon of the Ancient Ones” has, you guessed it, brain-mangling keys, guitars sending charges, and the track later floating into dreamy terrain. The leads sprawl, the synth washes over, and Browning calls, “There are no gods at the gate,” as things come to a weird ending. “Number 9” ends the album in breath-taking fashion with the synth creating a fog, riffs tricking you, and the music in this instrumental cut closing up the story. Energy splatters like stardust, the keys take over and rampage, and record comes to a proggy, adventurous conclusion.

It may have taken nearly three decades and a lot of tumult to get here, by Browning and the rest of Nocturnus AD finally have been able to connect the stories started on “The Key” and put them back together again. The fact the music sounds so much of the era in which “The Key” originated but also has modern flourishes is proof the band has stayed tuned to what’s happened over time but also knew what ancient space dust would make this special. This is a fantastic follow-up to a record that’s been begging for a sequel to tear open those old wounds again.

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