Zemial – Nykta

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Review by Jason Guest

Hells Headbangers

Greece’s Zemial – the work of Archon Vorskaath – have been hard at it since 1989. Research into the band’s back catalogue – one that’s more than worth exploring if you haven’t already – reveals a band whose musical scope is as broad as it is highly developed. With the 1992 EP Sleeping Under Tarturus and the 1996 full length For The Glory of UR buried firmly in black metal territories, the 2003 EP Face of The Conqueror and the band’s second album, 2006’s In Momentum saw Vorskaath drawing inspiration from more traditional heavy metal sources and pushing the bounds of his band’s sound forward without losing sight of his own distinct vision. A band not to simply rest on its well-established foundations, the two EPs that followed, 2009’s I Am The Dark and 2011’s Dusk, saw Zemial delving deeper into the dungeons of metal as his vision expanded. Like Darkthrone, his back catalogue exhibits the many opportunities that metal provides for those willing to take chances while sticking to their guns.

Twenty four years in and Zemial have delivered their third full length, Nykta. Like its predecessors, it has its fair share of surprises, the first being the production. Long gone are the lo-fi values of the early black metal material that could still be heard/felt in all other releases. In its place is a production that gives the album a depth, a warm analog feel that augments the power of each track, and the album as a whole. This is immediately felt in the eight minute opening track, ‘Ancient Arcane Scrolls’, its galloping might, matched by the darkly evocative lyrics, embodying all the force of darkness that has long underpinned metal and all its grim subgenres. Both ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Under Scythian Command’ maintain this power, their ruthless tempos, merciless rhythms, and heavy atmospherics hearkening back to the early days of black metal. And as the album continues to unfold, Vorskaath’s musical development becomes more apparent. As well as his developed lead work, the use of synths is subtle and discreet, serving the music by ushering in disturbing ambiences as well as providing melodic and harmonic support.

‘In The Arms Of Hades’ from the Dusk EP has been extended from seven to eleven minutes, a move which could easily have done some serious damage to an already great track but serves only to improve upon it. With ‘Breath Of Pestilence’ and ‘Deathspell’ returning to the black metal of the early days of the band, it’s with the Pink Floyd-esque instrumental ‘The Small’ and the incredible fifteen minute ‘Pharos’ where Vorskaath’s prog leanings are manifest. Place either of these two tracks next to any of the earlier tracks on the record and you’d swear it was a different band altogether. That’s not to say that they feel out of place on the album. Nykta is a journey and its road begins with the well-worn and soon becomes that of the less-travelled and the deeply rewarding. And closing track ‘Out Of The Cage’, a tribute to John Cage’s ‘4.33’, provides the not-quite silence required to begin reflecting on what Zemial has achieved. Nykta is a necessity.

Zemial - Nykta9 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Ancient Arcane Scrolls
  2. Eclipse
  3. Under Scythian Command
  4. In The Arms Of Hades
  5. Breath Of Pestilence
  6. Deathspell
  7. The Small
  8. Pharos
  9. Out Of The Cage