When Nocturnus was formed in the late '80s, the Tampa residents did something that was most unusual for a death metal/thrash outfit at the time -- they employed a keyboardist (Louis Panzer). It wasn't unusual for mainstream metal and hard rock bands to use keyboards, but it was hardly typical in the underground world of death metal, thrash, and grindcore. Nocturnus, of course, didn't want to be typical, which is why The Key is among the more interesting death metal releases of 1990. The Key has all of death metal's trademarks: insanely fast tempos, demonic vocals (which are provided by Mike Browning), occult-minded lyrics, and a love of brute force and sledgehammer aggression. But the tempos do vary, and Panzer's keyboard harmonies set this CD apart from most of the death metal that was recorded in the late '80s and early '90s. This isn't to say that The Key isn't blistering; even though Nocturnus was more musical than many of its death metal contemporaries, no prisoners are taken on this bone-crushing classic.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson