Review Summary: AT THE GATE I AM!
On the 1990 classic, The Key
, Mike Browning and company created a record that was quite different from any other death metal that year. This full-length was technical, bizarre, and centered around an over-the-top science fiction story about Satan’s rise to power, time-travel, and the killing of Christ before he could grow up into the savior of mankind. The record was and still is incredibly influential to many tech death artists and science fiction nerds alike. This cheesy, yet bold marriage of religion-based shock-horror and futuristic world building is something that would seem gimmicky at first - at least until you listen to it.
The follow-up, almost 30 years after the original, might seem like a novelty at first as well. It’s a comeback band made up by experienced Floridian death-heads, sure, but usually these return records are excuses to go on tour or misguided attempts at rekindling magic. Also against Paradox
’s odds is the fact that it’s a sequel record in the first place and, as many already know, the sequel record is usually a bloated, sloppy version of the original.
But, after the less than stellar material released by Nocturnus when Browning was kicked from the frontman/lead-songwriter/drummer role to just the drummer, and eventually kicked out of the band as a whole, I had to remain hopeful for this one. After effectively being ***ed over by his bandmates in both Morbid Angel and Nocturnus, this is where Browning can prove his worth as a band leader and make the true successor that Thresholds[
impeded upon. In addition, the tasty world-blending between evil, satanic death metal and futuristic technical aspects is something I needed more of and, to be blunt, Paradox
delivers on all fronts.
The story this time is as follows - Satan’s rule is in full swing and, after the events of The Key
, one Doctor Magus is left crippled and bound to an robotic exo-suit. Magus then gets wrapped up in strange going-ons that involve Lovecraftian horrors, ancient aliens, sinister cults, and his own eventual “deification.” Even without reading all the lyrics to find out what exactly is happening from song to song, the heavy atmosphere contained in each and every song tells a story of harrowing fear, conspiracies as old as time, and a climatic ascension. There’s a power in the lead and backing guitars - they represent the gravity of the situations, there’s a murkiness in the bass tone that looms over like how the satanic and ancient beasts prowl the streets. The synths, arguably the most prominent part of the world-building in Nocturnus and Nocturnus AD, spiral and swell as the record goes on, becoming more and more intense as the record inches closer to its climax.
is ultimately a very powerful follow-up to The Key
, changing the sound in subtle ways, but still maintaining the heart of the original work. It stands alone in both it’s storyline and song structures. There’s many a-headbang worthy riff here - look to “Paleolithic” and “The Antechamber” for some pit-fueling guitars - and some stellar performances. Browning is obviously still one with his percussion kit, which more than makes up for the way his vocals have aged. Daniel Tucker, of early Obituary fame, provides a great atmospheric backing for the shredding done by Belial Koblak of Lethal Prayer and Demian Heftel (who performed a stint in Brutality), as well as many other bands, as well as the all important keys played by newcomer Josh Holdren.
It brings me great joy to be able to recommend Paradox
as a worthy successor and a kick-ass tech-death record. Its heavy atmospheres, pummeling riffs, compelling track progressions and fun storyline make for a very enjoyable record. It’s undeniably cheesy, even more so than The Key
, but that’s definitely the appeal of Nocturnus and it’s AD counterpart. Science fiction meets the occult in a way that’s hard to take seriously, but played with the conviction of the most serious of concept albums.