Nocturnal Fear: Excessive Cruelty

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Nocturnal Fear: Excessive Cruelty
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Nocturnal Fear: Excessive Cruelty
Thrash Metal
Moribund Records
August 30th, 2011
Release length: 47:39
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With Metal of Honor receiving plenty of mixed reviews from fans and critics alike, the Detroid, Michigan based Nocturnal Fear return with their fifth full-length effort, Excessive Cruelty. The band, who formed back in 2000, stick with their previous underground home of Moribund Records for this follow-up effort. But, with the band trying some new ideas out for this mix, does this album have what it takes to bounce back from their not-so-well-recepted previous effort, or are we in for more of the same?

First of all, one of the biggest problems here lies in the audio quality. It’s hard to tell what the direction the band wanted to go in was. The music just hast his hard to describe mixture of raw and clean audio. The guitars have a good distortion to them that gives off a rawer kind of sound, but you can really pick up on a modern, digital quality to them on the recording. The bass is also pretty low in the mix, which doesn’t help that clearer trait to the quality, allowing it to be heard, but not make much of an impact at all, limited it to dull bassey tones. The snares of the drum kit actually give off more of a stronger bass sound to them, but the bass kicks on the kit have a good click to them that makes them stand out. The cymbols, however, are not quite that strong, sounding a bit further back in the mix, but still present enough to make a little influence to the mix. The vocals really come through commanding and pretty loud. While they don’t dwarf the rest of the audio, the rhaspier Kreator-esque approach roars into play and often has a good amount of energy to them that does their best to try to save the album when the music simply doesn’t quite live up to the expected intensity. The quality also doesn’t help for the guitar solos. Due to how dull the bass can be on this release, though some moments such as the chorus of “Frozen in Stone” can be a little richer due to the notes the bass is being played, and the fact that there’s one guitarist, the solo end up sounding very open and hollow, removing the intensity that does exist in the music at that point.

Due to the audio quality, this album becomes one of those CDs you have to play loud to really enjoy, which is what I had to do with most of this album, though increasing the amount of bass coming through really seemed to make no difference whatsoever in the end. Yes, there are some tracks that sound good despite the volume, like the first track “Murder for Hire.” This is one of those few songs that really takes advantage of some stronger bass playing and notes that really do come through louder, much like with the aforementioned “Frozen in Stone”. Sadly the notes to don’t really stick out as much throughout the song, such as the chorus, but there’s enough to really drive the heaviness of the song home. This track is also a good introduction to the release and establishes that raw aggression the band brings to the table, not really having that cleaner feel to the audio like other tracks can have. There are also plenty of moments on here that the commanding music does make the listener’s head start moving along against it will through the catchy yet sometimes intimidating music of the track.

The old-school Thrash sound similar to bands like the aforementioned Kreator and Sodom really shines through better when the material is coming at the listener quicker, and when the bass kicks really add more to the music. The title track “Excessive Cruelty” proves this well, as the song is much faster and intense compared to “Murder for Hire”, focusing more on aggression then the melody of rhythm this style can have, especially during the chorus. The power from the drums and the speed of the guitars, matched with some good bass throughout the whole song that stands out better then the previous track, really show the ruthless aggression that Nocturnal Fear has.

But, for as exhillerating as “Excessive Cruelty” is, the song “I am War” speaks volumes of the potential the band has, and the damage the audio quality can do it. The song is not as rich musically, which leads to a less-then-solid sound without the faster material, but while the lack of bass and cleaner sound of this track does play havoc, the group makes up for it with some additional atmosphere keyboards that simply are breathtaking and establish a very menacing and ominous sound when they are used. Overall, the near eight minute song is not bad, though after a while some parts do start to feel a bit repetitive and start to lose the listener, but without that additional boost to the song’s environment, it still would have held up somewhat, just nowhere near as much as it does when that boost does come into play. Those same keyboards do show up again in later tracks, like “World War 3” but it’s very limited. It does help the atmosphere, and really saves the guitar solo, which is pretty impressive in it’s faster pace. A similar solo appears during the closing track “Human Shield”, but sadly, this track is one of the songs that, overall, just is not that rich to stay interesting. Again there are some keyboards here for the second solo that kicks in, but the song in general feels pretty weak, but one of the very few to actually seem a rather uninteresting from it.

While Excessive Cruelty does have it’s faults, it’s still a strong full-length offering from Nocturnal Fear, and even feels stronger then their last effort. There’s nothing all that special or unique about the album other then some really aggressive material mingling with catchy dance-worthy sections, but overall it’s an enjoyable Thrash effort. The audio quality definitely doesn’t help the release out much, and at times it can become confusing what kind of atmosphere, or general audio quality the band is even going for. With sleek sounding music, rawer and aggressive passages, rather low bass you have to really turn the volume up to get the full effect of, and keyboard passages that set in ominous music to aid the guitar solos from sometimes sounding hollow, the release feels a bit unorganized in thought and what the final outcome was planned to be. If you liked the previous efforts of Nocturnal Fear, then there’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy Excessive Cruelty. Even if you’re not a fan, it’s worth sampling for some of the more intense tracks that do appear on this effort and stand out among the rest.

01. Murder for Hire – 5:58
02. Excessive Cruelty – 5:41
03. I am War – 7:51
04. Absolute Annihilation – 5:23
05. Rolling Thunder – 4:15
06. World War 3 – 4:56
07. Intro – Invade to Conquer Part 1 – 1:04
08. Frozen in stone – 6:50
09. Human Shield – 5:40
Overall Score: 7/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Moribund Records.