They Come at Night
posted on 5/2012 By:
Nocturnal Torment is another death metal band out to prove that old-school is the only school, with its debut, They Come at Night. While my ears are admittedly growing weary of the endless stream of bands paying tribute to early-Nineties death metal, I am willing to cut Nocturnal Torment some slack, because the band is not paying tribute to the old-school, it is old-school. The band’s members have roots in death and thrash metal going back to the late Eighties when all four played together in a band called Termination. Termination split after one demo in 1989, and its members went on to various other bands, before reforming in 2008 and shortly thereafter adopting the new moniker Nocturnal Torment.
One positive aspect of this band’s deep roots is that it has its own sound. Nocturnal Torment certainly is not offering anything innovative, but neither is it aping Incantation or Entombed, and to these jaded ears, that is worth something. A band that does come to mind when listening to They Come at Night is Benediction, primarily due to a similar vocal style, but also in the band’s no-nonsense, rhythm-oriented musical approach.
One of the things that spices up Nocturnal Torment’s meat-and-potatoes style of death metal is the band’s willingness to mix things up a little, rhythmically. The band does not even approach the mathematical madness of Meshuggah, but it does have a knack for stop-start stuttering and occasionally throwing the whole damn beat into reverse. This rhythmic versatility might be due to the fact that drummer, Dave Ross, generally eschews blast beats and double bass, and thus is able to put more effort into actually playing something interesting.
They Come at Night is definitely front-loaded, quality-wise. Opener “Vile Affliction” deftly teases several times with snippets of a particularly crunchy riff before finally delivering a dose of it large enough to groove on, and in its closing moments the band spins some dizzying melodies from out of nowhere. Track three, “Cycle of Life”, features a maniacal melody of its own, wherein harmonized guitars screech out a Slayer-esque line like a choir of demons. Track five,” Bleeding”, serves as the album’s centerpiece, working a sick, mid-paced groove into a chaotic climax that sounds like the band poked a hornets’ nest.
Unfortunately, while the second half of They Come at Night is comprised of perfectly serviceable death metal, Nocturnal Torment’s penchant for stretching songs beyond six minutes begins to tell here. In the absence of the hooks that made the first half so enjoyable, the album begins to drag.
They Come at Night is a different kind of old-school death metal record, but not different enough to transcend its label: It is still old-school death metal, and there is not a single musical idea on this record less then twenty years old. Fresh, it is not, but good, it is. Whether good is good enough is up to you to decide.
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