***Interview orginally published in OBSCURE CHOAS ZINE***
We were lucky enough to catch up with an underground metal legend Mike Browning (Pictured far right) from the original lineup of Nocturnus, while Nocturnus are dead Mike has resurrected the music under the banner of "NOCTURNUS AD" over the last few years, playing old songs off the first album "The Key", new material they've been composing and some very early "Morbid Angel" material (Mike's first band). As part of their new run of shows they will even be playing a metal festival in Melbourne (Insurrection of Darkness) on the 10/11th of June with Nocturnus playing two sets, headlining both nights and one of the sets will consist of a full set rendition of their legendary first album "The Key"
Hello Mike! Great to have you on board for a few questions! First up, thanks for taking the time to talk to us and secondly thanks for making some truely timeless music!
I've saw a post that you guys were working on some new music... I am exceedingly happy to hear this! Can you spill the beans on how this music will compare to the groundbreaking albums you (and the then lineup of Nocturnus) released in the late 80's early 90's?
Yes, we are working on a full albums worth of songs for Nocturnus AD. Right now we are working on our 7th new song and our goal is to have 9 for the album. Four of the songs will continue with The Key story and one will be the followup to Neolithic and another will continue with Lake of Fire and Standing in Blood and the others will be various subjects. As far as the music, it is kind of a cross between The Key and Thresholds.
Your second album Thresholds is a personal favourate of mine, and was probably the first ever 'technical death metal' record I heard. How does a band progress from there? Are you going to keep pushing the bounds of technicality or persue another angle? Do you guys feel the need to compete with younger bands that are playing tech death today?
I really had wanted to continue with The Key story lyrically on Thresholds, so since I didn’t sing on Thresholds, I didn’t write very many of the lyrics either, so there were really no connections between the first 2 albums at all like I had wanted to originally do after The Key, so at least now with Nocturnus AD I xan go back to continuing with The Key story as well as the other song connections I had mentioned. I do think our new songs definitely push the limits even more because the new material has elements of both, plus its even heavier and maybe a bit faster too. What we are doing still has a lot of the old school feeling to it and I don’t think there is still another band that you can compare us to, so even with these newer young bands that have a lot of speed and technical abilities, most of the music is very stale and has no originality to it.
As a teenager I read and studied your lyrics rather closely.. How important do you feel the lyrics are in a death metal band.... you guys have a very strong occult / fantasy angle on the band .... is it crucial to the band and why do you do it?
Lyrics are of different importance for everyone, but for me they always tell a story and they actually fit with the atmosphere of the music. That is why I always wanted to have keyboards in the music to give it an evil almost cinematic atmosphere so that fit with the right lyrics make each song like a mini movie. The content of the lyrics are just basically things that I am interested in in my real life, like the occult and science fiction horror.
When you look back on the early days of Nocturnus do you feel the band was underrated?
We were really starting to do well, but because everyone in the band but me wanted to get a front man and go more diverse and less evil occult lyrics, so we did on Thresholds and even though it was a great album, it only sold 1/3 of what The Key did, so I can only imagine what might have happened if we had written The Key part 2 with me singing and writing most of the lyrics, it might have made us much bigger instead.
Nocturnus music is not simple shit... How importantly do you rate musical theory for yourself and other death metal musicians learning the trade?
More of the technical end started with Mike Davis, because before that the band was simpler and heavier, but with new people in the band the music changed and evolved and got even more technical. And the guitar players in Nocturnus AD are both amazing musicians with a different style from each other, but I think that sometimes, especially lately, that the guys in the newer death bands just want to be as fast and technical as possible, but they also sacrifice feeling for technology.
I don’t mind having a mix of new technology for spreading the music, but I also want to be on a label that will do old school vinyl a cassettes too for the collectors. The one good thing about the digital age is that now musicians songs can be tracked for sales a lot more accurately and at the same time you can reach everyone on the entire planet who has a computer or a phone, so it has made access to your music a lot better.
Nocturnus' records were markedly 'singular' to anything else in the metal scene at the time... I'd love it if you could share some of your influences with us
Since I grew up in the 1970’s I have a big range of influences from stuff like Led Zeppelin, Rush,
Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, then I got more into metal like Angelwitch and Venom and then it got even heavier into Celtic Frost, Slayer, old Bathory and stuff like that.
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