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Nocturnus AD | Mike Browning Interview

He’s the death metal drummer who was there at the start of it all – from their embryonic lineup of Morbid Angel to the classic prog death metal of Nocturnus.

Mike Browning has been part of some of the most amazing death metal ever penned, now touring as Nocturnus AD. He’s also creating dark death metal atmospheres in After Death.

Yet just recently, some of those early original Nocturnus demos were reissued -and as our review said at the time, they sound absolutely outstanding.

Anthony McGee asked Mike a a few questions about his band’s new lease of life.


That Awesome Demos Reissue

First off, ‘The Science of Horror’ is a great collection. Nuclear War Now typically take great care with their releases. Are you happy with how it turned out?

The official release is actually still not out yet, but there will be a bunch of extensive artwork by Zbigniew Bielak. He is doing illustrations for each song and he is really busy with tons of big band’s covers, art gallery openings, and stuff like that, so it’s been more of a side thing for him to work on.

But in the meantime, there have been 2 limited colour vinyl releases of it. I think it’s gonna be amazing and although there have been recordings of it released before I think this one will be the nicest package by far.

Aside from the music, what can people who buy the LP look forward to?

Basically what I mentioned about Bielak, who also really likes Nocturnus a lot anyway, so that makes it even better! I believe there will also be some never before seen pics from my personal collection.

This kind of release is mainly for the fans and people that really like the band. It’s a way for them to get the original recordings and some extra stuff that would only be available for this release.

There is footage from the NWN festival that Nocturnus AD recently played up on Youtube. It must have been wild. As you get older does your appreciation for moments like that grow deeper?

Yes, most definitely. I would have never thought that at 50 years old and more than 25 years later, I’d still be able to tour the world and play this stuff!

The above video is from a different show, but you get the picture

A European Influence

John Oliva engineered the ‘Science of Horror’ and even provided some backing vocals. Were you guys Savatage fans? How did you hook up with him for the sessions?

I think everyone in the band knew who Savatage was, since they were local too. But I have known Jon Oliva since he was in Avatar before Savatage.

I saw him in a local club and he asked me if we wanted to record a demo in this small studio that he was using to do the preproduction for the next Savatage record. This was in October of 1988, so I said ‘hell yes’! So we went in the studio and for 500 dollars he gave us a full weekend to record and mix a 4 song demo.

We had a really great time in the studio with him. Things worked very well and we completed it all in one weekend. He was really into what we were doing and even added some of his back-ups to a few of the songs!

To me, one could trace a line from Celtic Frost’s ‘Into the Pandemonium’ to ‘The Science of Horror’ demo and ‘The Key’. Both have a slightly European sound. Was this a conscious effort to be different from your peers or was it an organic occurrence?

I never really liked much on ‘Into the Pandemonium’, but ‘To Mega Therion’ is one of my favourite albums of all time. I think for the most part the bands I liked the most were from Europe except for Slayer and a few others, but I have always tried to make the stuff I do sound as different and unique as possible.

I still don’t think I have heard a band that sounds like Nocturnus did. Everyone that played on ‘The Science of Horror’ liked a different style of music, so when we put those songs together, everyone added their own little style to them and the outcome was very different from what most bands were doing at the time.

The Key, The Secret

Listening to the demo collection it struck me that the songs from ‘The Science…’ are slower and slightly more ominous than how they sound on ‘The Key’.

This is particularly true of ‘Neolithic’ and ‘Standing in Blood’. Again, was it a conscious decision to ramp up the brutality or was it simply a result of the band getting tighter?

There were several reasons, the biggest probably being the difference between the way Gino played and the way Davis played. In the earlier line up after Vincent Crowley left on guitar and we had Gino, he was writing most of the guitar riffs and then when we got Davis in the band, he wanted to play everything faster and more technical because he was really into the old speed metal guitar players like Marty Friedman and Jason Becker, so we made everything more technical and faster.

In the review, I mentioned that ‘BC/AD’ is one of the undisputed classics of the Nocturnus canon. It’s a fan favourite that appears on both demos and the debut album. Presumably, it’s one of your faves too. Can you speak for the longevity and appeal of the track?

That song was actually the first one ever written when I started Nocturnus and it was just Richard Bateman and I; just bass and drums and nothing else. It is probably the simplest Nocturnus song, but it was the actual beginning of the band, the original first idea. So to me it is kind of a magical thing, the “Genesis” of the band if you will.

And the weirdest part is that I started using the ‘AD’ in the very first idea of the band and now that ‘AD’ is the very thing that gives me the possibility to have Nocturnus AD today. It was a total prophetic phrase: “Before Christ I Ruled The Land, After Death I Will Rule Once Again.” And The Key ended up being After Death!

The narrator of ‘BC/AD’ is an interesting character. He seems to be a voice for all the transgression of man. The refrain you quoted above is killer. But, what did he do for the 33 odd years when JC and the Sunshine Band were in full effect?

The song really refers to things on a couple of different levels, the obvious being the story of Jesus Christ and how he came to the Earth to save it from Evil or Satan and that he failed and everything is still as Evil as it was before he came to change the world.

The number 33 has all kinds of significance. Too much to go into here of course, but just do a quick Internet search on it and you will see what the real meaning of the 33 years is.

The song has some personal meaning as well and kind of connects to the rest of the story of the character who builds the time machine and goes back in time to destroy Christ in the manger.

New Nocturnus Klaxon

Have you any plans to record new material? Will there be any call-backs to the concepts of ‘Standing in Blood’ or ‘Destroying the Manger’?

Yes we have 3 new songs written musically and working on more. I just finished the lyrics to one but I have about 8 or 9 song ideas and titles and I just need to see what song fits with the song ideas best.

Several of the songs lyrically will be continuations of the stories from the songs on ‘The Key’ and others will be similar to what I usually write about anyway.

About your After Death material, will that be cast aside in favour of Nocturnus AD?

Well obviously there are a lot more opportunities for Nocturnus AD, but I still want to keep both bands. I want to keep After Death as more of an atmospheric occult band and Nocturnus AD on the Sci-Fi horror route with more technical rhythms.

Next, indulge some silliness if you will. If you could fire up the Nocturnus time machine for a final retro-trip, are there any lost demos or LPs from your collection that you’d go back to save?

I think something really cool would be to go back and find the original master reel to reels that we recorded ‘The Key’ on, that way the album could be put into ProTools and remixed and remastered with today’s technology.

For some reason it seems that neither Earache nor Morrisound have the master reels in their possession, so I have no idea what happened to them, but I would go back in time and get those reels and bring them back to today and remix the album myself!

Mike On Morbid Angel

I’d get a kicking from some of my friends if I didn’t turn our conversation in a Morbid direction. Would you care to share some memories of your Morbid Angel days? Do you ever listen back to ‘Abominations of Desolation’ and think ‘what if?’

Well yes of course, it really would have been awesome to see where Morbid Angel would have went if I had stayed in the band. Obviously it wouldn’t have moved in the direction that it has ended up. But it was a very real and evil band when I was in it. We were really serious about bringing forth evil entities through our music and not so much into being fast and precise.

I think we would have gone in a more Venom style direction, but more serious and evil. To tell you the truth, we were so real that I don’t think the general public were ready for something that real! We would literally be somewhere private right before we played doing some kinds of invocations and spells from the ‘Necronomicon’ to bring forth onto the stage when we played live.

Dark Angel famously opined that ‘Time Does not Heal’. If I may pry, have you sorted out your differences with the blokes from Morbid Angel and Nocturnus?

No. If anything, we have probably become even more separated now that I have just as much of a voice in the public that they do!

Before, they all tried to suppress me and the real facts, but with forums like this and the internet, I have had a voice to speak back about things that these guys all tried to keep their fans from knowing and I have been able to not only say, but actually prove all these things I have been saying are real and that what they have claimed, and still claim, is just not true. Even with solid evidence out there, they still won’t admit some things are what they are!

For many, you are seen as a pivotal figure in the formation and honing of death metal. Are you still in touch with that scene? What modern bands, if any, do you consider worthy torch-bearers?

It is just that I am that old and I’m still out there in the scene supporting and doing it. I was lucky enough to be the right age to be there when it all started evolving from metal to all these sub categories like Death and Black Metal and a million others by now!

There are so many amazing musicians and bands now that it would be hard to name a few and leave out so many others, but I will tell you that I really don’t like that Nu Metal crap where every band tries to sound the same. I just don’t understand that. And the thing is that a lot of them are good musicians, it’s just that they have no originality or soul.

Are you still an out-and-out metal maniac? Do you attend shows and buy records or have you left that life behind?

I go out as much as I can, but obviously since I have a daughter now that is only 8 and I’m a single father, I can’t go out every night of the week and get crazy, but I do still go to see as many shows as I can and I still love buying and collecting stuff, but mainly vinyl now.

Finally, when oh when will ‘The Key’ be reissued? It sold over 70,000 copies originally. The fact that it’s so hard to get these days is borderline criminal.

I just heard that is has been recently reissued through Century Media on vinyl, but not by Earache for some reason. I was never even told about this release and when I asked Earache about it, I was told to ask Century Media! People have been buying them and I still don’t even have one copy!

Thanks again, Mike. The last words are yours!

I just want to say thanks as always to you, people like you, and everyone out there that has supported me and the things I have done, for me it’s never been about making it a career to make money from or anything like that, it’s more that it’s stuff that is trapped in my brain that I need to release to the Universe! Heeheeheee!

Anthony McGee ::: 09/05/15

  1. Deadly interview Crow!

  2. Deadly interview indeed, nice one.

  3. Deadly interview , great read, thanks for that!

  4. Great to see stu mentioned in nearly every paragragh

  5. Thanks fiend, enjoyed reading that. Reminds me that I really need to get my stereo fixed and get these vinyls spinning again!

  6. twiggy667 Says:

    I taught earache released the key on vinyl last year.

  7. The referenced Nocturnus AD Nuclear War Now Fest 2014

  8. paul keohane Says:

    I had the key on tape since the 90s, but I managed to get it on cd in a 2nd hand stall in france 10 years ago, , definitely one of the all time great dm albums.

  9. Great stuff
    Listening to the demo, you can hear the way he influenced Dave Vincent with his vocal delivery for altars

  10. I dont think he should remix the key with pro tools, that’s a awful idea, lose the analogue feel to it, im glad earache and morris sound lost the reel to reels.

    The cool thing about that album is the reel to reel sounds warped or loose on the spool, all that uncontrolled phase running through the whole thing.

    stay away from pro tools mike !!!!!!!

  11. I was thinking the exact same, to be honest! I love the sound on ‘The Key’. It’s killer.

  12. Padre Pio Says:

    Good interview Crow! It made me dig out both ‘The Key’ and ‘Abominations of Desolation’ which I hadn’t listened to for too long. Coincidentally I recently picked up the CD reissue of the Incubus demo and it is of course deadly.

  13. I had my eye on that Incubus demo cd. Is there anything extra with it? Or is it just the demo?

  14. Padre Pio Says:

    Just the demo.

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