Nocturnal Terror’s “Blasphemous Crushing of Angels”: The fun of early Bathory with heightened extremity

Nocturnal Terror is a black metal project out of Brazil, whose creative core is multi-instrumentalist Evokator of Storms—a name obviously indebted to Blasphemy guitarist Caller of the Storms. An independent act, they have not achieved—and unfortunately, likely never will—any kind of widespread popularity or notoriety. Only those ensconced in the black metal scene and willing to listen to random demos on YouTube, such as yours truly, will ever hear of this band. And boy, oh boy, am I glad I heard of them. This is not your straightforward amateur black metal release: It’s dirty and evil, but above all, fun!

My first point of interest in Nocturnal Terror came from the tracklist, as I immediately recognized the third track, “Reaper,” as a Bathory cover. Being a godfather of black metal, Bathory has been covered to death, so seeing their song on the tracklist was no real surprise. However, Nocturnal Terror’s cover art on “Blasphemous Crushing” was so striking—taking hints from the black-and-red-palette-obsessed heathens in war metal—and my interest sufficiently piqued that I tried this extended play (EP) out. And the Bathory influence is evident, and that is not just from the fact that Nocturnal Terror covers them. The track is saturated in early Bathory, specifically their eponymous debut in 1984. “Blasphemous Crushing of Angels,” released on Jan. 23, is almost like a revamped Bathory for a new generation, with influences from genres such as death metal and full-fledged second-wave black metal, of which Bathory themselves were the pioneers.

The Bathory influence is evident from the first title track, “Blasphemous Crushing of Angels.” A gritty, muted, death-metal-tinged riff kicks the EP off; the same riff is repeated in both channels at a higher volume before blasting into the admittedly restrained drums. That opening riff, besides making me bang my head, reminded me of “Necromancy” or “Reaper” off the Bathory debut, songs which similarly start with a muted version of the main riff which then repeats at a higher volume before the song proper commences. The drums complementing this riff, unlike the clangor of most black metal, are admittedly restrained. The EP, unlike most releases in this genre, is more concerned with the riffs, hence its proclivity for death metal. A similarly awesome, death-metal-esque riff commences on “Sepulchral Desecration.” Slow and grimy, like something off a mature Bolt Thrower release, sounds like a song off of Bathory’s “The Return……” was given a healthy dose of “The IVth Crusade” or Asphyx.

The standout on the EP for me, though, is in fact the Bathory cover. Covers are tricky: You can either stick to the original almost note-for-note, like in Sodom’s excellent cover of Motörhead’s “Iron Fist,” or completely reinvent it, like in Imperial Triumphant’s nigh unrecognizable “Motorbreath.” Nocturnal Terror eschews this dichotomous thinking, but not in a cowardly, non-committal way. Their reinvention of the main riff, still with all the groove and kinesis of Bathory’s original, makes me want to move in a looser and almost more wild way than Quorthon’s classic. Nevertheless, Nocturnal Terror has proven that they’ve studied the classics, as the solo is nearly the same as the original … as it should be, since that hellish solo—the sound of bats breaking out of Hell—cannot be topped. It takes moxie to put your own spin on an early black metal staple such as “Reaper,” and Nocturnal Terror passes the test with flying colors. It’s just as fun as the original but with the band’s own signature flair.

The death metal influences re-emerge on EP closer “Sodomy,” undoubtedly the most “brutal” song on the album. While Nocturnal Terror is not quite a war metal band, since most of their riffs are classic black metal and do not pummel as much as simmer with Satanic sizzle, “Sodomy” is the exception. Deep, guttural growls, unlike the screams of “Reaper,” and double-kick drums make this track a highlight of the release. Nocturnal Terror’s production also well suits its songs. Like Darkthrone’s genre classic “A Blaze in the Northern Sky,” the production is low-fidelity, but crisp enough to let the headbanging riffs stand in the fore. Darkthrone’s “In the Shadow of the Horns” finds its analog in “Sodomy” or “Sepulchral Desecration.”

Above all, “Blasphemous Crushing of Angels” is downright fun. The riffs are slick, dirty and even more enjoyable upon re-listening. Bathory was already fun in and of itself—I dare you to not enjoy yourself listening to “Necromancy,” “Sacrifice,” or “Born for Burning—but by adding the extremity characteristic of modern metal, especially death metal, Nocturnal Terror presents a far-from-amateur showing. The album highlights both their knowledge of the extreme essentials but also a creativity and studio intuition that makes these songs shine. I hope my review sheds some light on this criminally underrated band.

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