Boy, does Noctem bring back memories. Back in 2014, Exilium was one of the better albums I reviewed. A lot of this had to do with the fact that I was a n00b in 2014 (Exilium being one of the first reviews I ever wrote for AMG). But, even so, it stuck with me for the rest of the year. So, you can imagine the excitement and nostalgia I felt when this newest album, Haeresis, showed up in my inbox. Which, in turn, had me rediscovering Exilium and recalling all the love I have for it. Along with that, resurfaced fears I had that the band may venture too deep into the symphonic ways of Dimmu Borgir and Septicflesh. Thankfully, Haeresis put those fears to rest. On their newest offering, Noctem retained their necessary ambiance without the help of over-dramatic orchestrations. The result is an aggressive, yet emotional, end-product that allows the essence of Noctem to shine through.
Right away, opener “Through the Black Temples of Disaster” proves no extra stringed instruments are needed on Haeresis. Instead of the Dimmu Borgir-esque orchestration introduction of Exilium, Haeresis opens with a blackened-death assault that nearly startled the snifter of crisp, Christian blood from my hand. If the band was looking to crush expectations with this new record and cause immediate anxiety in their listeners, they achieved it. Within its minuscule three-and-a-half-minute existence, this opening track hints at every curve on the road ahead. This song is packed with everything from lightning-quick guitar leads and impressive drum work to melodic, mid-paced sections filled with soothing clean guitars. This roller-coaster ride cranks up your heart rate like an espresso-shot high before depressing it with a fifth of scotch.
And, as one might expect, Noctem doesn’t let up for the rest of the album. But, this isn’t to say the album is without variation. The band continues to toss in a variety of genres, crafting them into their own brand of grenade. Then chucking them at any poor soul brave enough to walk by. This time around, the thrashy elements of Exilium are not as prominent. While Haeresis‘ assaults are less varied without the thrash component, the band makes up for it by painting the record in a good coat of matte black. Exilium had its fair share of emotion and atmosphere, but this new record is dripping with it.
Like the opener, “Auto-Da-Fé,” “The Submission Discipline,” “Whispers of the Ancient Gods,” and closer “Pactum with the Indomitable Darkness” are saturated with deathly moodiness. They have everything from Belphegor-esque clean-guitar passages to building, Behemoth-like mid-sections. “Whispers of the Ancient Gods,” for instance, opens with some brewing suspense that builds into crushing Gorgoroth riffage before dropping into a sorrowful pit of Dissection. It’s a well-balanced number and the hopelessness of its conclusion makes it one of the better tracks on the album.
“The Submission Discipline” tweaks the formula a bit by opening with clean guitars, then transitioning to a groove befitting Absu and Behemoth. The highlight of this ditty coming at the mid-way point. The song collapses on clean guitars that rise from the darkness with stellar guitar leads, building the song up for one last hurrah. Be it a more “epic” approach (“Whispers of the Ancient Gods” and “Pactum with the Indomitable Darkness”) or a straightforward one (“The Submission Discipline” and the title track), Haeresis executes them like any well-oiled machine.
As you may have noticed, Haeresis is a little different from Exilium. There are some great tracks on the album, but others, like “Blind Devotion,” “The Dark One,” and “Conjuring Degradation and Morbidity,” are a bit bland. But, what really gives Haeresis its strength is its production. The lush dynamics and the great balance make for an enjoyable listen; something not all too common from a black/death outfit like Noctem. In the end, however, I didn’t find Haeresis to be as good as Exilium. I still enjoy it a lot, but it doesn’t hook me like its predecessor did.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Art Gates Records | Prosthetic Records
Websites: noctemonline.bigcartel.com | facebook.com/noctemofficial
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2016