Album Review: Caratucay – Nocturnes of the Incarcerated

Band: Caratucay | Album: Nocturnes of the Incarcerated | Genre: Death metal, Progressive metal | Year: 2023

From: Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany | Label: Independent

For fans of: Between the Buried and Me, Opeth


Caratucay is a German prog-death metal quintet, and Nocturnes of the Incarcerated is their second full-length album. I will admit that I was entirely unfamiliar with this band before running across Nocturnes while perusing Bandcamp, but this album made enough of an impression on me, I felt it’d make a solid spotlight for this site.

After the brief subdued intro “Captivi te Salutant”, the album starts in earnest with “Paralysis”. It’s an immediate punch in the face, full of pummeling yet melodic riffs. The vocals have more in common with black metal than death metal for the most part, but that’s something I like. In general, I prefer black metal shrieking over death metal Cookie Monster vocals. Those low guttural vocals feature prominently, too, but they strike a nice balance. “Paralysis” is a tight, anxious song, where the riffs bounce all over the place. Despite the many shifts, the song holds together well.

“Psychotorture” has more of a churning rhythm to it than its predecessor, but it features plenty of flashy fills and flourishes. Near the song’s midpoint, there’s a mellow break which calls to mind the quieter sections of Crimson. It culminates in a melodic passage of clean vocals over a distorted backing that works wonderfully.

The opening to “Plethora” features a jittery clean guitar arpeggio, but it soon morphs into a rolling wave of distorted guitar and pounding drums. This pattern alternates with the more straightforward rhythm of the verses to make for an enjoyable feeling of ebb-and-flow. I like the band’s greater incorporation of quiet elements on this song, although it still runs a bit long. This is a recurrent issue on this album: none of the tracks are egregiously overlong, but many could have been trimmed down a bit.

Folk elements are present in the opening of “Hiraeth”, but those soon give way to an urgent riff that’s reminiscent of early Between the Buried and Me. Some of the clean passages on this song, combined with the warm bass tone, remind me of Cynic’s mellower moments. I also like that this song is sung in the band’s native German. As someone who deemphasizes the importance of lyrics (especially in a genre like death metal, where entirely inscrutable vocals are the norm), it’s nice just to hear the flow and cadence of other languages.

“Sunken” is a decent enough song, but it is one of the less-distinct moments on Nocturnes. Meanwhile, “From Abyss to Kingdom Above” features impressionistic, post-metal-like riffing. It’s slower and more emotive than other cuts, and this (relatively) brief instrumental makes a solid impression.

Despite being the second-longest song on the album, “Pathfinder” doesn’t do much to stand out. Like “Sunken” before it, it’s an enjoyable song, but there’s nothing too unique here. “Deceptive Haven”, though, feels more focused. Parts of it channel post-hardcore and metalcore in the vocals, and the twisting riffs are complex and engrossing.

Nocturnes ends on its longest song, the 13-minute “Moonlight”. This track opens with an extended instrumental introduction and takes its time getting going. When the verse finally begins, the music is explosive and aggressive, and the many layers of guitar have a rich, fleshed-out sound. There’s a sense of anxiety and urgency to this cut, which helps to offset its long runtime. Around the 8-minute mark, it slows down for a moment, but as the pace builds back up, there’s an ascendant quality to it. The final two minutes are a piano-led instrumental that also features a nice bass solo. While it’s a nice passage, it does feel a bit incongruous with the preceding 11 minutes of death metal.

Overall, Nocturnes of the Incarcerated is a pretty solid record. There are a lot of strong, punchy riffs and complex instrumental passages. Most songs are smartly structured and include some degree of evolution. Some tracks do run too long, but none of them make me look at my watch. If you’re looking for solid progressive death metal with some tech-death influences, this is a pretty good choice.

Score: 79/100

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