Last updated
Origin Tampa, Florida, United States
Genres Death metal, progressive death metal
Years active 1987–1993
Labels Earache, Moribund, Season of Mist, Combat, Relativity
Past members Mike Browning
Mike Davis

Nocturnus was an American progressive death metal band formed in Tampa, Florida in 1987 by drummer/vocalist Mike Browning (formerly of Morbid Angel). They were known for their science-fiction themed lyrics and use of keyboards, both of which were virtually unknown in extreme metal at the time. [1]

Tampa, Florida City in Central Florida

Tampa is a major city in, and the county seat of, Hillsborough County, Florida, United States. It is on the west coast of Florida on Tampa Bay, near the Gulf of Mexico, and is the largest city in the Tampa Bay Area. The bay's port is the largest in the state, near downtown's Channel District. Bayshore Boulevard runs along the bay, and is east of the historic Hyde Park neighborhood.

Mike Browning is an American metal drummer and vocalist.

Morbid Angel American band

Morbid Angel is an American death metal band based in Tampa, Florida formed in 1983 by guitarist and sole remaining original member Trey Azagthoth, vocalist and bassist Dallas Ward, and drummer Mike Browning. Widely considered as one of the most influential bands in the genre and important in the transition of death metal from its thrash metal roots, they were one of the first bands to incorporate guttural vocals, up-tempo blast beats, multiple tempo changes and dark atmosphere. They have been described as one of "the most influential and emulated bands in death metal", alongside Obituary, Death and Cannibal Corpse, and have been cited as an influence by many later bands. They were also the first death metal band to experience mainstream success in connection with being signed to Giant Records in 1992, heavy rotation of their music videos on MTV, and having the music video for the song "God of Emptiness" shown on an episode of Beavis and Butt-head. Their first four albums – Altars of Madness (1989), Blessed Are the Sick (1991), Covenant (1993) and Domination (1995) – are considered classics in the genre.




Nocturnus was formed in 1987 by drummer/vocalist Mike Browning following the breakup of his old band Incubus. The band was formed by Browning, former Incubus guitarist Gino Marino and former Agent Steel bassist Richard Bateman. The band eventually began working on material and added second guitarist Vincent Crowley. This first lineup recorded one self-titled demo in 1987. Crowley quit (going on to form Acheron) and was replaced by then-unknown 18-year-old guitar prodigy Mike Davis, who was also Marinos cousin. Bateman quit shortly afterwards to join Nasty Savage.

Agent Steel is an American speed metal band from Los Angeles, California that was formed in 1984 by vocalist John Cyriis with drummer Chuck Profus. The band released two full-length albums, and one EP before disbanding in 1988. They were most notable for Cyriis' high-pitched vocals, catchy songs, melodic riffs, and fast tempos mixed in with their unusual interest in UFOs, and differential anthropological-theme lyrical prose. Agent Steel reformed in 1998 and released three more full-length albums before going on hiatus in 2011. The band announced their second reunion in 2019, with Cyriis back on vocals.

Acheron is an American death/black metal band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that was formed by Vincent Crowley in 1988. The band is named after the mythological river Acheron located in the underground kingdom of Hades in ancient Greek mythology.

Mike Davis is an American metal guitarist. He is best known for his work in the progressive death metal band Nocturnus. He joined the band around 1988, and eventually became the bands' standout lead guitarist. He joined the band when he was just 18 years old and is widely regarded as an underrated guitarist. After the second breakup of Nocturnus in 2003 he formed the band Tiwanaku with Emo Mowery and Richard Christy, but quit early on

Nocturnus added new bassist Jeff Estes and a keyboard player, Louis Panzer, in 1988. Panzer's addition made the band unique in the death metal scene and provided the band with an atmosphere that enhanced their increasingly science fiction-themed lyrical content and image. This lineup put out the classic Science of Horror demo. In 1989 Marino quit and was replaced by Davis's long time friend and neighbor Sean McNenney. With both Davis and McNenney being highly technical players, their often dueling and very fast guitar solos became another focal point of the band.

The Key

In 1989, thanks in large part to Mike Davis's friendship with Morbid Angel guitarist Trey Azagthoth, the band signed to Earache Records. The band recorded their debut album, The Key with Tom Morris, which was released in 1990. The album, filled with a unique occult-meets-sci-fi concept (a blend of Browning and Davis's influences, respectively), virtuoso guitar pyrotechnics and space-age-ish keyboards, managed to become a death metal hit, spawning classic tracks such as "Standing In Blood" and "BC/AD (Before Christ/After Death)". It has gone on to sell 70,000 copies worldwide. It also featured backing vocals by former Mantas/Death and then Massacre vocalist Kam Lee.

Earache Records is an independent record label, music publisher and management company founded by Digby Pearson, based in Nottingham, England with offices in London and New York. It helped to pioneer extreme metal by releasing early grindcore and death metal records between 1988 and 1994. The label roster has since diversified into more mainstream guitar music, working with bands such as Rival Sons, The Temperance Movement, Blackberry Smoke and The White Buffalo. The company also hosted the 'Earache Express' stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2017 and will be hosting 'The Earache Factory' at Boomtown Fair 2018.

<i>The Key</i> (Nocturnus album) 1990 studio album by Nocturnus

The Key is the first full-length studio album from Florida progressive death metal band Nocturnus. It was released on Earache Records in October 1990.

The occult is "knowledge of the hidden" or "knowledge of the paranormal", as opposed to facts and "knowledge of the measurable", usually referred to as science. The term is sometimes taken to mean knowledge that "is meant only for certain people" or that "must be kept hidden", but for most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual reality that extends pure reason and the physical sciences. The terms esoteric and arcane can also be used to describe the occult, in addition to their meanings unrelated to the supernatural.

Jeff Estes began developing a major drinking problem during the recording of The Key. This affected his bass playing skills (Mike Davis ended up playing much of the bass on The Key) and was fired shortly after. He was replaced by Jim O'Sullivan. With O'Sullivan on board, the band toured for The Key in 1991 in support of Bolt Thrower, and then embarked on the Grindcrusher tour with Morbid Angel, Napalm Death and Godflesh. O'Sullivan ended up not working out and he was fired as soon as the band's tours were over.

Alcohol (drug) active ingredient in alcoholic beverages

Alcohol, also known by its chemical name ethanol, is a psychoactive substance that is the active ingredient in drinks such as beer, wine, and distilled spirits. It is one of the oldest and most common recreational substances, causing the characteristic effects of alcohol intoxication ("drunkenness"). Among other effects, alcohol produces a mood lift and euphoria, decreased anxiety, increased sociability, sedation, impairment of cognitive, memory, motor, and sensory function, and generalized depression of central nervous system function. Ethanol is a type of chemical compound known as an alcohol, and is the only type of alcohol that is found in alcoholic beverages or is commonly used for recreational purposes; other alcohols such as methanol and isopropyl alcohol are toxic.

Bolt Thrower English band

Bolt Thrower were a British death metal band from Coventry, England. They formed in 1986 and released their first album with Vinyl Solution in 1988. The band then shifted to a new record label, Earache Records, soon becoming one of the best selling bands on that label. Their last label was Metal Blade Records. The band had a succession of members, and had toured Europe, the United States, and Australia. Over the course of their 30-year career, Bolt Thrower released eight studio albums, three EPs, one live album, two compilation albums and two demos. On 14 September 2016 the band announced that they were breaking up, following the death of drummer Martin Kearns exactly a year earlier.

Napalm Death British grindcore band

Napalm Death are a British extreme metal band formed in Meriden, West Midlands, England, in 1981. While none of its original members remain in the group since December 1986, the lineup of vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway, bassist Shane Embury, guitarist Mitch Harris and drummer Danny Herrera has remained consistent of the band's career since 1992's Utopia Banished, although, from 1989 to 2004, Napalm Death were a five-piece band after they added Jesse Pintado as the replacement of one-time guitarist Bill Steer; following Pintado's departure, the band reverted to a four-piece rather than replace him.


In 1992 the band decided to get a full-time vocalist, allowing Browning to concentrate solely on drumming and because Earache promised the band a music video if they got a "real" frontman. Former Tortured Soul vocalist Dan Izzo was brought in on lead vocals. The band hired session bassist Chris Anderson to play on their next album, Thresholds .

With Browning becoming less involved in the band's songwriting, Thresholds saw the band moving in a much more space and sci-fi oriented direction lyrically. Musically, the album was less unrelenting and more diverse than The Key, including an instrumental track ("Nocturne in Bm"), employment of acoustic guitars ("Arctic Crypt"), and exotic percussion ("Tribal Voudon"). The album did not sell quite as well as The Key, perhaps due to the band's more mature direction. Despite this, it was generally favorably received by critics and fans for its ambitious and unique progressive direction. "Alter Reality" was released as a single with a music video, and "Arctic Crypt" and "Subterranean Infiltrator" also became fan favorites. The band also got a new permanent bassist Emo Mowery (formerly of Malediction) and had a European tour for Thresholds, during which time the band was unsatisfied with Earaches lack of promotion leading them to make little money off the tour.

Acoustic guitar type of guitar

An acoustic guitar is a guitar that produces sound acoustically by transmitting the vibration of the strings to the air—as opposed to relying on electronic amplification (see electric guitar). The sound waves from the strings of an acoustic guitar resonate through the guitar's body, creating sound. This typically involves the use of a sound board and a sound box to strengthen the vibrations of the strings. In standard tuning the guitar's six strings are tuned (low to high) E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4.

After the band returned home to the United States, musical differences between Mike Browning and the rest of the band became more and more apparent. This culminated in Sean McNenney and Louis Panzer, behind Brownings back, ensuring rights to the bandname "Nocturnus", which they also signed Mike Davis onto, but not Izzo or Mowery. Browning was fired from the band shortly after, and to this day there is bad blood between the McNenney/Panzer and Browning camps. Browning was replaced by James Marcinek.

The new Nocturnus lineup began recording new songs for a 3rd album, including "Mummified", "The Invertebrate Plague", "The Great Spot", and "Orbital Decay", all of which were written by Davis/McNenney/Panzer. However around this time the band began to lose label support from Earache as their contract was dropped. The new lineup put out a two song self-titled EP in 1993, which featured a recycled early song "Possess The Priest" and the brand new "Mummified". However Panzer, McNenney, and Marcinek all departed the band after this, and the band effectively split. During this time most of the band members effectively fell off the musical grid, with the exception of Mike Davis's work on a project with Trey Azagthoth which never saw the light of day.

Ethereal Tomb

In the late 90s, Sean McNenney and Louis Panzer began playing together again, writing ambient metal riffs. Eventually deciding that these new ideas could work as new Nocturnus material, Mike Davis and Emo Mowery were readded to the fold, along with new drummer Rick Bizarro. In 2000 Nocturnus released their comeback album Ethereal Tomb , now on Seasons of Mist. The album had a more refined and ambient sound than the band's previous work. However, in 2002 the band finally split up for good.

Break-up and aftermath

Since the dissolution of Nocturnus, the most active former member has been Emo Mowery, playing in bands such as Leash Law in Florida. At a certain point Louis Panzer reformed an old band called Cry Blue, which Mike Browning described as "Sting type music", though he was known to be involved in the software industry and living in North Carolina. Currently, he is the executive director of North Carolina 8-1-1 [2] . Browning has been involved in a wide variety of projects, currently After Death, which bears a style similar to a less technical Nocturnus. The other members of the band have been inactive in music as far as is known, with former guitarist Mike Davis in particular having gained quite a mystique (false rumors of his death circulated in 2008, and he is often falsely credited with playing guitar in Rob Halfords solo band, misattributed to be Halfords bassist of the same name).

Post-breakup the band has made two releases, The Nocturnus Demos, a collection of the band's pre-Earache recordings, and Farewell To Planet Earth, a DVD of live shows from various periods.

In late 2008 Browning toured with his own band After Death under the Nocturnus name for two exclusive UK dates one at BUSK in Birmingham and the other in London plus some European gigs. [3]

In May 2013, Earache Records began a Kickstarter campaign to gather pledges for Thresholds to be re-released for the first time since its official release date in 1992 using the original DAT master tape, successfully reaching its goal in July. [4] Also in 2013, After Death performed under the Nocturnus name once more for a Mexican tour. On 24 September 2013, it was announced that Nocturnus would play Maryland Deathfest 2014, and perform their album The Key in its entirety. Shortly after, the band reformed as Nocturnus A.D., containing every member from After Death.


Final Line-Up

Former members




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