Nox Aeterna - Subject 17

Hailing from the Netherlands, Nox Aeterna is a five piece and “Subject 17” is their 4th full length album. No stranger to concept albums, listeners are presented with another story from this melodeath band that tells a story of a doctor who is infected with a mysterious sickness around the 20th century and the album chronicles his time to find a cure. While a little bit more modern than other stories they have done, such as demonic deals on “Desperation Deal,” the music delivered is pretty much in the vein of what they have done so far. For those who have not heard this group yet, expect a mix of early Children Of Bodom from the guitars and keyboards with a touch of At The Gates with the vocals. Overall, expect a late 90s approach with a bit more of a symphonic flourish.

The album kicks off with a brief spoken work piece to set the story (and expect spoken word bits to pop out throughout the album), fans are blasted with the keyboard and guitar assault bombast before the vocals and drums jump in with ‘Scorn Inside.’ The production is pretty well balanced and this song pounds. The anthemic chug of the guitars mixed with the guitars almost sounds a bit Cradle Of Filth-y with some of the melodies, but mixed with a death metal based roar. But rather than gothic it feels more upbeat and energetic in that Children Of Bodom sort of way. Then there are the thunderous assault tracks like ‘Determined’ that feature less keyboards (or more buried ones), but this gives a chance for the guitars to show off more. The dual play between Arnold Boukes  and Debbie Maasdam work well together, but the vocal trade off is a bit hard to tell because the vocals tend to sound a little one sided all throughout the album in their roar. Maasdam’s pitch is a little higher but not by much. Drumming by James Koppelaar is percussive thunder with some of that ‘clicky’ touch which is pretty consistent throughout the album, but it always comes in bursts, especially on a track like ‘The Failure Of Greatness.’ It adds to the anthemic quality of the music.

The only downside to the album would be the burial of the bass from Erik de Beijer and the interlude/ filler additions of the spoken word elements that randomly seem to pop up on the album. They just don’t seem to flow quite as well as compared to other more seasoned concept albums such as “Damnation And A Day.” The interlude ‘Morbid Transition’ is a nice breather but more of an acoustic touch versus a sinister gothic touch that would seem more fitting for the atmosphere. Thankfully, the album doesn’t stumble too hard with this trips as other tracks like ‘The Trick’ have those dramatic keyboard meets guitar moments, and show off some of keyboardist Gerard Baai’s finer strokes. While it is mentioned he also does piano on the album, those sections are harder to recognize or pick out in the songs. Still, overall, Nox Aeterna is a solid melodeath release despite not sounding as varied as some might like. The story is conveyed well enough through the lyrics and while not in the progressive vein of the likes of bands such as Dark Tranquillity who use clean vocals and more electronic features, the album is still ferocious and bites with the flair of the 90s. Those who enjoy their music with lots of crushing drums and snarled vocals offset by excellent keyboard and guitar melodies will find “Subject 17” a thrilling ride/ story to enjoy.

3 / 5 STARS

1. Exordium
2. Scorn Inside
3. The Infection
4. Determined
5. The Failure Of Greatness
6. Victims In Abandonment
7. Morbid Transition
8. Godmode
9. The One
10. The Trick
11. Subject 17
12. The Unveiling

Reviewer: Colin McNamara
Sep 25, 2023

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