A bit of a mixed bag

Diabolical Baptism is the third full length album from recently reactivated Adelaide black metal cult Nocturnes Mist.

Formed in 1996, Nocturnes Mist saw activity throughout that decade before retiring to reforge their flames.

‘Hammers of Hatred’ kicks things off, instantly transporting you to the early/mid 1990s. Both band mainstay Deceiver’s vocals and the riffs easily recall the black metal of that era, albeit delivered with a modern ferocity. A well-placed guitar solo takes up the mid-section of the song serving as a skilful display from Inferus.

‘Tears of Misery’ begins at a more measured pace with some symphonic elements that wouldn’t be out of place on many a black metal album, but the keyboards are used competently enough that they don’t distract from everything else. Instead, they add to the atmosphere that Nocturnes Mist create. ‘Tears of Misery’ is ably propelled by drummer Selenium, bassist Annunaki and both guitarists.

‘Barbs of Sadism’ opens with some chilling samples and the track proper soon rips into life. Again, the keyboards are used to good effect here. They add a new dimension to the track when used as a counterpoint for the vocals. ‘Temple of Malevolence’ sees sharp riffs anchored by pounding drums and vicious vocals. This track feels to be much more in that classic black metal mould. Another guitar solo pops up here, along with a breakdown, both put to good effect. The last section is all the better for it, allowing cold riffs to become the highlight.

‘Pale Face Cold Heart’ is a longer downtempo offering. The lush use of keyboards really help make this song a highlight, along with the lead guitar lines. It feels much shorter than its six minute length.

‘Obscure Reaches’ represents a solid execution of 90s-era black metal. It feels a bit faster than the tracks encountered previously, and yet the band still allows a break for a tasteful keyboard passage. Nocturnes Mist’s usage of keyboards really feels like a refreshing approach. Additionally, the guitar solo in this song reminds me of something that’d perhaps feel at home on Sigh’s Hail Horror Hail.

‘Upon the Beast Rode a Whore’ is a bludgeoner of a track. The band really use the slower tempo extremely well and it manages to be somewhat anthemic as well. It feels like they’ve taken a lot from the blueprint of classic black metal on this one, but it’s not a bad thing when it’s done this well. ‘Shadow of the Flame’ again feels a bit closer to a ‘standard’ black metal track, but again it’s done to great effect. There’s another great guitar solo here.

Keyboards are again put to good use in ‘Domina Noctus’. Here, they provide more of a melodic edge to offset the multifaceted vocal approach. ‘Ave Satani’ features more of a reliance on samples and otherworldly effects, set against martial drumming and ritualistic vocals. It is these which provide a backdrop from which a cascading guitar solo emerges, to herald the return of Deceiver’s throaty vocal approach. When this track started, I admit that I was a bit cautious in thinking it was going to be little more than an extended outro. I was pleasantly surprised.

Diabolical Baptism is a bit of a mixed bag, with some tracks owing more to the 90s black metal sound from which the band emerged, and other tracks betraying a bit more experimentation. Another track with the quality and varied approach of ‘Ave Satani’ might have pushed it a bit further along. With that said, it’s a solid offering.

1. Hammers of Hatred
2. Tears of Misery
3. Barbs of Sadism
4. Temple of Malevolence
5. Pale Face Cold Heart
6. Obscure Reaches
7. Upon the Beast Rode a Whore
8. Shadow of the Flame
9. Domina Noctus
10. Ave Satani