Metal Hammer talks to Nocturnus founder Mike Browning on the making of a death metal classic – part one of two.Floridian sci-fi death metal pioneers Nocturnus have been an influential cult name to reckon with since their first two albums, The Key and Thresholds, were released on Earache Records at the height of the label’s powers, the magical heyday of 1991/92. Such is the demand for the long-out-of-print technical prog-DM classic Thresholds that Earache have announced that the album is their first vinyl re-release to be funded by the Kickstarter system, where the fan can pledge the price of a reissue – and there are a range of deluxe coloured vinyl packages to choose from, mastered from the original DAT tape in Full Dynamic Range – if a pre-order target of £7,000 is reached by July 1. In the first of an in-depth two-part interview, Chris Chantler spoke to the band’s founding member, drummer/singer Mike Browning.


What are your main memories of writing, recording and touring Thresholds?

“Thresholds was a big turning point in the band, after we recorded The Key, which was mainly about half old songs from the beginning when Gino Marino, Richard Bateman and Vincent Crowley were in the band and the other half all written by Mike Davis and myself. There were many new changes, I had stopped singing and we got a frontman and we didn’t even have a bass player, so when we began writing new songs, everyone wanted to have parts that they wrote and came up with. It was the first time that the whole band contributed to the writing of songs and because the sci-fi thing was doing well, the other members wanted to push the lyrics away from just occult themes to branch out and write different types of lyrics and ideas. And the recording was different as well, we had a session bass player, Chris Anderson, who was a friend of Davis and [keyboardist Louis] Panzer and we had a new vocalist, Dan Izzo. I still had a really crappy drum set at the time, so we also rented a really nice drum set for me to record on, which made the drums sound a whole lot better overall and Morrisound had just got a new SSL mixing board and Thresholds was the first album ever recorded on it. I remember they were still trying to figure out how to use all the new features on the board and constantly had the manual out and rewiring things! On The Key Mike Davis ended up playing all the bass, so it was very buried in the mix, but on Thresholds we had Chris, who is a great bass player and he gave us that full bass guitar sound that The Key had been missing. About the touring, we only did one European tour with Confessor and Chris was not interested in touring, so we had hired Emo Mowery to play bass on the tour and that is when I really was able to see that things just weren’t the same anymore, the band had really lost something in this transition period.”

Nocturnus - Thresholds

Was it important to make the album more progressive and multifaceted than The Key?

“It was for everyone in the band and the label as well, it was supposed to be a big turning point that was supposed to branch us out to a much wider audience and we also did a video for Alter Reality that was played on Headbanger’s Ball. The songs were much more diverse and the production was much cleaner as well.”


What do you feel about the album with the benefit of 21 years’ hindsight? 

“It is still a great album and didn’t receive the attention that we hoped it would back then, it may have been a little ahead of it’s time for the audience that The Key had, being considered still a death metal band, the album itself was more of a thrash metal sound. But it is great to see that new people are still discovering both Nocturnus records and that they both have stood the test of time.”

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