I promised the boys and girls over here I wouldn’t do this. I swore I wouldn’t start by talking about leather. But, here we are, and here I am about to drone on about leather. You can don leather for a number of purposes. For example, I wore it to my junior prom. Alternatively, you could be heading into battle atop a majestic steed. You could be trouncing off to a renaissance fair and you need a brushed suede look with your pantaloons. Perhaps you’re into some of that “tied-up-in-the-basement-in-heels-gag-ball-in-mouth–tapered-plug-in-anal-orifice” type of leather. While all valid leather lifestyle choices, it’s probably best stated by Cody Chestnutt that the best reason to wear leather is because you look damn good in it. Whether lounging in your smoking chair or weaving your way through a field of unmarked gravestones, leather is known to be the best garment of choice.
Another great time to don leather is when you’re listening to some epic, silky gothic metal. And Light of the Morning Star has most certainly proven himself to be that. A three-song EP trickled slowly out of England last year entitled Cemetery Glow. With not much known about it, that EP made its rounds quietly, whispering vampirism in the ears of a select few who dared to succumb to it’s alchemy. Cemetery Glow set the darkened stage for the equally quiet release of Nocta, the debut full-length by this mysterious London-based gothic metal project. And, on the whole, Nocta delivers. Track after track of thick guitars, tasteful drumming and an array of rote but well executed vocal stylings turn Nocta into an experience as enjoyable as drinking a thick, sanguine fluid like a Châteauneuf-du-Pape dominated with Garnacha and blended with a touch Syrah and Mourvedre for plush, luxurious finish.
“Coffinwood” is the standout track. If metal, or gothic metal more appropriately, were at all popular in the mainstream, or if MTV actually bothered to show music videos, it’s this track that would be the clear winner for a single. Complete with an actual hook for a chorus, deep, seductive vocals and a generally bumping rhythm, “Coffinwood” is, to date, the pinnacle of O-A’s compositional career to date. And, with it’s nearly dark-wave feel, it provides quite a solid roadmap for the future of this project.
Other tracks on the album, most notably “Serpent Lanterns” and “Crescentlight,” feel like attempts at what makes “Coffinwood” so successful but the songs fall short of the mark. That’s not a death knell, however. Even the lesser tracks on Nocta provide a velveteen backdrop for languid vocals to complete the aura of gothic mystique surrounding O-A. Partly thanks to the excellent musicianship across the board, regardless of instrumentation, he adeptly weaves a serpentine paths among unknown graves leading directly to your heart (or some other vital organ).
Opposite the more “hook-and-chorus” style of writing lie ballads that are dripping with bloody goodness. “Lord of All Graves” shines particularly bright among this category. Across the more than five-minute run-time, the vocal affectations bounce around between his lower, more classic delivery and a more ethereal, light delivery that allows the music to breathe. It also, as goth tends to allow, allows a bit of romance to creep in. The kind of romance in which your partner has set the bed aflame and then proceeded to drip hot wax on your back but it’s all OK and somehow full of pleasure.
Clad in your best brushed leather or sweatily soaking your birthday suit, naked as the day you were born, dancing in circles, arms flailing are both acceptable way to enjoy Light of the Morning Star. Nocta shows some growth following the Cemetery Glow, and it lays a substantial groundwork for the future of this project. Fans of Tiamat’s goth phase, riffs as black as coarsely gritted Moonspell or as melodic as Amoprhis and vocals that come near rivaling a young Andrew Eldritch will certainly find tons to enjoy across Nocta (and Cemetery Glow for that matter). So pour a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (make sure the bottle is properly AOC stamped), lay back and let the ritzy opulence of Nocta wash over you, ”darker than a black steer’s tookus on a moonlight prairie night.”