ocalist and drummer Mike Browning was the founder of Nocturnus following his departure from Death legends Morbid Angel. Recruiting Sean McNenney (guitar), Mike Davis (guitar) and Luis Panzer (keyboards) they would release The Key on the 'Earache' label in the summer of 1990 gaining the reputation of being unique in the death metal world for their innovative use of keyboards. Dan Izzo stepped in to properly assume the vocal duties, while Chris Anderson stepped in on bass for their 1992 album Thresholds, a strong album that nonetheless failed to make a commercial impact. Anderson decided to leave and was replaced by Emo Mowery who had in turn replaced intern-touring bassist Jim O'Sullivan, but the band split shortly later.
The band returned, however, to release Etheral Tomb in 2000, an album featuring new drummer Rick Bizzaro and not far off sonically from their debut but boasting many of the innovations achieved since that time.