Raging blackened death/thrash metal savagery

Melbourne’s Nocturnal Graves have been unleashing rampant, raging blackened death/thrash metal savagery, for near a decade and a half.

Satan’s Cross, initially released in 2007, was their first full length album. This upcoming reissue, from Season of Mist’s Underground Activists imprint, sees it appended with the Satan’s Cross demo that consists of earlier versions of tracks that would appear on the album proper.

Opening track ‘Aggressive Exterminator’ sets the mood with an eerie intro before it rips into the track proper and shows why it earned its name. This is a killer opener, jam packed with speed, aggression and killer vocals. The rotten heart of German thrash is evident throughout this one, albeit filtered through the spirits of early black and death metal. ‘Rotten Cremation’ begins with a sudden blast of speed and maintains that pace throughout. The utterly venomous vocals are a highlight here, set against a backdrop of manic riffing and furious drumming. A short, solid lead break makes an appearance half way through the track.

‘Skullthrone’ opens with martial drumming set against a barrage of riffs and distinctive vocals. The atmosphere generated here is a highlight, as is the solo. I could imagine this track going over very well in a live environment. ‘Whore of Sodom’ is a mid-paced track that gradually opens to a solid riff that calls to mind early Sepultura. It continues its furious assault before giving way to an all too brief melodic solo section. I feel like the solo would have been better served in the middle of the track, but it works where it is.

‘Nocturnal Maniac’ begins in a furious manner, after another intro. This track puts me in mind of early Kreator, but the Melbournians put their own frenetic spin on it. A solid, brief thrasher. ‘When the Demons Feast’ is where I start thinking that the album tends to be a little rear-weighted. This track sees Nocturnal Graves propelled along with just that much more energy. The track is all the better for it, going through myriads of time changes, and just raging along in general. A classic solo really helps ‘When the Demons Feast’ feel like a cut above. An impressive offering.

‘The Pestilence Crucified’ continues in much the same way as its predecessor, taking no prisoners in its relentless approach. Jarro and Regan both shine in this one. Dropping the track back into that martial approach first heard on ‘Skullthrone’ for a brief period serves it well, creating some variation. One of the longer tracks on the album, but the variation on display makes it go by quite quickly.

The closing, and title track, ‘Satan’s Cross’ really feels like Nocturnal Graves have saved the best. A final salvo, kept to a breakneck pace, moving along while brief lead guitar figures intersect with the unrelenting drumming. Hellish vocals from Jarro bleed out into an ominous outro to bring the album to a close. An especially well-constructed track, and a great one to end this impressive album on.

The five bonus cuts, taken from the Satan’s Cross Advance Demo represent a majority of the album tracks in a rougher, rawer form. I think fans and newcomers alike will appreciate their inclusion; for they represent a further glimpse into the spirit that continues to drive Nocturnal Graves.

Satan’s Cross in 2007 represented Nocturnal Graves making a swift ascent into the upper echelons of the underground. An incisive statement it remains in 2017, a decade on, here bolstered by the inclusion of some quality demo tracks.

1. Aggressive Exterminator
2. Rotten Cremation
3. Skullthrone
4. Whore of Sodom
5. Nocturnal Maniac
6. When the Demons Feast
7. The Pestilence Crucified
8. Satan’s Cross
9. Nocturnal Maniac (demo)
10. Whore of Sodom (demo)
11. Skullthrone (demo)
12. Rotten Cremation (demo)
13. When the Demons Feast (demo)