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Face of the Conqueror was the first 'official' release of Zemial within 7 years of their full-length debut For the Glory of UR, so it makes a bit of sense that their sound had changed. However, the difference is not considerable, the Greeks have merely cleaned up the dirty and stock black metal aesthetics to incorporate some truer heavy metal and speed metal riffing with the same resonant, black snarl. Face of the Conqueror is rather fun as a result, never mindblowing, but pure in intention and well enough delivered that I admit I like the new tracks more so than anything they'd come out with before, and also considerably more than their other band, Agatus, which too had tidied up for its sophomore Weaving the Fates.
The best of the newer tunes strike early, with the mid-paced rocking of the title track, sort of a straight 80s epic/heavy metal piece circa Cirith Ungol or Manilla Road with black metal vocals and an acceleration into crisp speed/thrash. It's almost like a precursor to Darkthrone's evolution from 2006-2010, if not as memorable. "Impending Doom" follows with another, similar fast riff and some curling leads through the bridge. I enjoyed the bloodied, atmospheric vocals splattered over "Full Moon Necrophilia", but the driving riffs are a bit monotonous, while "ΔΑΙΜΩΝ (Daimon)" postulates a doom-like pandemic which is admittedly alluring. They close the core EP with a tribal/ambient piece called "Pazuzu Returns", but if you've got the band's 2006 re-issue of this CD, it also includes the Necrolatry demo from 1997, a missing chapter that picks up right where For the Glory of UR left off, a bridge between the material on that album and the more stripped down speed/heavy undertow found here.
With that material added, Face of the Conqueror almost seems like a consistent full-length, even though the demo was somewhat less produced. Songs like "Dragons Touch (The Eyes of Fire)" and "Possess by Twilight" are worth the time, so I'd certainly recommend you track down that version, if not both separately. In the end, Zemial is still not the stuff of legends, but the band's obvious love for old school black metal (Celtic Frost, Venom, Bathory) really shines here, and the EP will prove entertaining for those into their simply written, crude black/thrash like Aura Noir, older Bewitched (Sweden), and so forth, and it molds well to the barbarian and occult lyrics referencing subjects like Robert E. Howard's Conan universe. A good time here that compensates for the project's absence of many years.
"Face of the Conqueror" is the first Zemial CD in the new millennium. Zemial have always been more of a live-band and it always takes some time until they release new material - so is this new EP a worthy purchase? - most definitely.
I'll actually go as far and say that this was the best Zemial stuff around the time it was released. Only the new "In Monumentum" beats it, even though it's quite different in style, but check my review for it, if you care.
"Face of the Conqueror" has 5 tracks and 4 warrant a purchase. The songs are mostly thrashy black metal with some heavy metal influence. "Face of the Conqueror" and "Impending Doom" are probably the thrashiest songs Zemial have ever written and their main riffs will shred your head right off your neck. On a side note, it's quite impressive that they haven't really written these songs; about half of them are totally improvised (that's what their website says)!
"Daimon" is the most impressive song when it comes to the technical aspect. Not in the riff department, which is fairly simple, but the ending solo is a great shredder. It's also the only song that shows slight elements of what's to come in their future (lots of heavy metal riffing, comparable to "In Monumentum".
There's only one throwaway track, which is "Pazuzu Returns". It's only some ritualistic bongo drumming with nothing else to offer except for some whispered moaning. Maybe I’m just not much of a spiritual person, but this is nothing I listen to more than once - skip button.
In conclusion, track 5 is easy to ignore, so you have a great EP of thrashy black metal.
The black metal world seems to be flooded with Norsecore and endless gothic-black metal bands. I think many (old school) black metal fans will be delighted with Zemial's last release on 10 inches of vinyl! Iron Pegasus did, once again, a nice job by releasing this 10" on transparant vinyl in a nice designed cover including the lyrics. Well, not only the lay-out is well done, also the music is ways above avarage! Heavy black metal is what we get, including great riffing, original drumming by Vorskaath and some quite evil vocals. Something that really differs from standard black metal are the structures of the songs. They're more in the traditional, heavy metal vein. The riffs have a "heavy" feeling, the solo's also. The typical Greek feeling is a little bit lost, it's not as dominant as on earlier releases (maybe because the guys have left Greece?) but still there are hints of Hellenic influences. On a song like Daimon for instance (from their split with Kawir), traditional black/heavy metal, nasty vocals and Hellenic influences. Please listen to the ending of the song, some heavy metal lead-guitar violence which shows how talented these guys are!
All by all a good effort of heavy black metal which is more then welcome in the current 'black' metal scene.