Marquis of Hell is the fourth full-length album from reactivated Adelaide black metal titans Nocturnes Mist. Formed in 1996, the bulk of their activity has occurred since the beginning of the last decade. Marquis of Hell sees them continuing with the momentum gained from successive releases, but have they been able to positively harness that momentum?
Album opener ‘Abyssus’ sets the tone, an ominous, foreboding instrumental with layers of synth and chanting, intoning the beginning to the album proper. ‘Eyes in Fear’ immediately takes hold with fast riffing, prominent bass and intense drumming. Vocals soon kick in and they’ve initially taken on more of a spoken dimension, as if they are issuing decrees from the centre of the abyss. It’s an effective, punishing track that quickly signals that Nocturnes Mist are back, and as focused as they’ve ever been.
‘Cursed’ has an opening series of riffs that call to mind the storied second-wave of black metal, however the track is also imbued with a modern technicality that gives the track an almost droning atmosphere. Notable is the deft use of keyboards, used to aid the atmosphere rather than dominate it.
‘War Machine’ brings both speed and atmosphere, blending both with a dense, technical guitar solo before settling into a pummelling series of riffs. It’s a short, sharp blast that’s over quickly, but it serves its purpose in the middle of the album.
‘Wolves of Satan’ adopts more of a downtempo approach, fusing doomy, grinding rhythms with brief bursts of keyboard. Some skilful drumming precedes an atmosphere-shifting tempo change. It shows that Nocturnes Mist aren’t afraid to experiment rather than sticking with a formula. This track provides a lot of variation, and the album is all the better for it.
The title track ‘Marquis of Hell’ absolutely rips. Taking no prisoners, it adopts a fast tempo with perhaps the most spirited vocals on the album. There is soon a deft shift in tempo as the keyboards take prominence before another well-placed guitar solo. There’s much more happening in this track, and its composition really allows each band member to shine.
‘Summoning’ amps up the atmosphere, coming across almost as something that might have been at home on Marduk’s vaunted Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered’. It’s a relentless assault, affirming that Nocturnes Mist are capable of creating an all-encompassing, spellbinding track.
Album closer ‘Treacherous Ways’ opens with some absolutely filthy vocals, drawn more from the primordial wells of early black metal. Propelled by the unrelenting drumming and wild harmonised guitars, ‘Treacherous Ways’ grips the listener and doesn’t let go until the very last note. The concluding half of the track contains many twists and turns, capping off the intense experience that was Marquis of Hell.
Nocturnes Mist have continually refined their craft since the turn of the decade, improving in musicianship and compositional skill with each successive opus. This release feels perhaps the most cohesive of their recent output. Each instrument is locked in sync, providing the perfect foundation for vocalist Deceiver and keyboardist Grotesquery to add their individual touches.
I respect that Nocturnes Mist not only strive to continue creating fresh material, but to also improve as musicians, individually and as a unit. Extreme metal fans will find much to appreciate here, on what possibly represents Nocturnes Mist’s most accomplished work; as they solidify their reputation as one of Australia’s most consistent black metal bands.
- Eyes in Fear
- War Machine
- Wolves of Satan
- Marquis of Hell
- Treacherous Ways