Called Spain’s answer to Behemoth, death metal band Noctem lands with unholy force on their latest record. The band, which came into existence in 2001, defines its ideals as “based in the antithesis of the whole absurd human religions, misanthropy and cult to former civilizations, violence, destruction and death.” Okey doke.
Oblivion, for its part, is a dynamic, unrelenting hunk of melodic extreme metal. It challenges with technical guitar riffs and castigates with throat-shredding vocals, taunting us all the while by never letting up on the gas pedal of this caustic atrocity.
In my line of “work,” I listen to a lot of death/black/doom/melodic/thrash metal. There are points at which the bands start to blend together into a frozen Eastern European stew of robust but repetitive racket. With Noctem, the difference lies in the band’s ferocious commitment to godless form.
There’s a considerable amount of mechanical polish to be found on Oblivion, with certain production tricks used in subtle ways to add grain to some of the songs. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Noctem’s image of annihilation “glossy,” but there is a certain sophistication to the album’s 11 tracks that buffs out some of the edges.
Make no mistake, though, this is harsh stuff. After a video game-ish intro, Noctem blows into “The Arrival of the False Gods” with vintage thrash and Beleth’s noxious vocals. The pace is like a runaway train, carved out by Darko’s drums and led by Exo’s shattering guitar.
Noctem’s sense for the stage carries out its evil business with songs like “Q'uma'rka'aa'j” and “Sons of Hun-Vucub.”
Egyptian, Greek and Babylonian mythology is crushed together in “Invictus,” a track that alludes to the Oracle of Delphi while guitars glide together like snakes wrapping themselves around one of Pythia’s legs.
If the references are a little too dense, not to worry: you can’t really make out the words unless you really, really try. So when Beleth cries out to Q'uq'umatz (“Universal Disorder”), the feathered serpent and K'iche' Mayan answer to the Aztecs' Quetzalcoatl, you’ll probably be none the wiser.
With rumblings of “cynical” and “inert gods,” Noctem’s Oblivion is a record of cavernous, hefty stuff – if you’ve got the resilience or a copy of the lyrics. Their ultimate denial of modern religious concepts lays hand in talon with the lore of lost civilizations, producing an arresting distinction that plays itself out in the darkened thrash attack solidified by these splendid Spanish heathens.