Way back in 1996, Oslo, Norway's blackened thrash supergroup Nocturnal Breed was sired by some key players in Scandinavian extreme metal – including members of legendary symphonic metal unit Dimmu Borgir – as well as a rogue's gallery of talented guest performers. The band has been off the international radar for the past seven years following the release of their fourth studio album, 2007's Fields of Rot.
This year they've finally resurfaced to continue the grand tradition, bringing in an impressive guest lineup for their latest release Napalm Nights – including Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone (whose last album The Underground Resistance was one of last year's standout metal records) as well as members of Satyricon, Aeternus and Gehenna. Even two of the band's veteran guitarists, I. Maztor and A.E. Rattlehead (a.k.a. Atle Glomstad) have rejoined the fold for this project, and the result is blazing hot and mega-heavy, showcasing a wide spectrum of style, tone and technique that spans multiple decades.
Apparently refreshed by the lengthy hiatus, the band has made some effective mods to their potent blend of vintage thrash, rowdy hard rock and caustic black/death metal for Napalm Nights, the most significant being a more modern production style and a (slight) touch more emphasis on melody. Thankfully this approach doesn't steal from their aggressively gritty, sleazy tone, which for me remains one of the band's strengths. They hammer that point home with one of their most impressive tracks to date: the ballsy, hard-rocking and diabolical opener “The Devil Swept the Ruins.”
“Speedkrieg” casts an even darker shadow, setting the tone for the album's horrific themes of wartime devastation and destruction with WWII-era audio samples and a decidedly martial tone, particularly in frontman S.A. Destroyer's echoing vocal delivery, which often channels Motörhead's Lemmy Klimeister – a similarity which becomes even more apparent on tracks like “The Bitch of Buchenwald.” The speediest, most aggressive old-school thrash elements come to the forefront in the neck-snapping “Thrashiac” and the demonic, flesh-ripping screeches of “Dawn Campaign... Flamethrower Ridge.”
Moodier horror-infused tracks are scattered throughout the record as well, with the most evil examples including the snarling, droning mid-tempo “Cursed Beyond Recognition,” the hooky but savage “Dragging the Priests” (which reminds me quite a bit of latter-day Satyricon), and the incredibly creepy “Under the Whip,” given added menace by S.A.'s most sinister vocals, ranging from gritty, distorted rasps to glass-shattering demon wails. The team expands the scale of the production with the epic title track – an evolving beast which clocks in at a brain-crushing twelve minutes – and the moody, expansive “Krigshisser (D.N.K.)” which closes the record on a suitably apocalyptic note.
Photo: Karen Toftera
It's tough to pull off a balance of pure, head-banging fun with totally evil, rage-fueled mayhem, all the while weaving in a loose running theme describing the horrors of war... but for the most part, Nocturnal Breed have reached that tricky equilibrium in Napalm Nights, resulting on one of the band's most memorable releases and a triumphant return to form. It's available now from Agonia Records, so go get some!