Noctem – Exilium (Art Gates Records)Sunday, 30th March 2014
Never really getting out of relative obscurity despite a growing back catalogue, Spain’s Noctem have nonetheless retained status as one of the flag bearers of the Spanish scene. Following their Dimmu Borgir influences, they’ve decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join them, featuring a hideous demon woman (check out the creepy hand) on the cover with a visible nipple. She also makes an appearance, as do the usual scantily clad orgy participants, on their video for “Eidolon,” which was recently released.
As with their previous release, Oblivion, Noctem tries to take the best of both worlds: merging the relentless brutality of bands like Behemoth and Belphegor and the melodies and atmosphere of bands like the afore-mentioned Dimmu as well as Septicflesh. The result falls somewhere in between, with the hate-fueled riffing occasionally giving way to some melodic moments but never fully embracing either extreme. Noctem does seem to be at their best when they are among the blasting onslaughts and high-speed riffage, to the point that one would almost just wish them to keep things in high gear like they unflinchingly do on songs like “Decrepit Human Kingdom” or “Rising Horns,” instead of slowing down for more atmosphere/melody (“Halo of Repugnance”). A focus could really give Noctem an edge on future releases.
Truth be told, Exilium doesn’t really have many major flaws so much as its generic feel. There’s nothing here that you haven’t heard before through one of the bands previously discussed. It’s unfortunate, due to the band’s potential, given the songwriting witnessed here. They just need to pick their direction and stick with it. For now, if you enjoy Behemoth or Dimmu Borgir, it couldn’t hurt to give Exilium a shot. Just don’t expect your life to change dramatically or anything.