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Despite the fact that it took a decade to manifest, I did not initially warm to the Zemial sophomore In Monumentum. Its epic, plodding pace seemed somehow vapid and discontented, and its style was a clear deviation from much of what the band had created in the past, honing in on a mesh of simplistic black and heavy metal that felt like a midway point between Bathory (Hammerheart, Twilight of the Gods) and something like Manowar. However, we all make a few mistakes in our time, and I couldn't be happier that this was one of mine. It's hardly a cult classic for all the ages, but through the years I've come to actually appreciate this record: consistent and dynamic as it gently thunders through its historical lyrical concepts.
For such a simple set of compositions, they put a lot into this. Archon Vorskaath's vocals are a crumbling, decrepit specter of loss and fell glories, and the guitars trod along with the same assured bombast you'd expect of mid-era Bathory, later Immortal/Demonaz, or perhaps even a little tint of Tiamat (Clouds) and Therion (Lepaca Kliffoth, Theli). A good dose of airy reverb to make the material seem even more grandiose, and liberal use of synthesizers and acoustic guitars that give it that almost 'Viking' flair. However, lyrically Zemial delves into its own country's past, with tributes to the 300/Battle of Thermophylae ("H TAN Η ΕΠΙ ΤΑΣ") and the battle of Gods and Titans so fundamental to Greek mythology ("March of the Giants").
The entirely of the experience is well structured, from the slower, steadied material ("For a Fallen One") to the more upbeat aggression ("Riddle"), even allowing the listener a breather with the glistening acoustic instrumental "Remembering Those Lost". Each melody and synthesizer is well bred to accompany its minimal rhythmic substrate, and there's also a good variation to the track lengths which never crosses the threshold of tedium, even in the nearly 8-minute finale "In Monumentum/Stone of the Ages". The production is polished without feeling overburdened by its glorious epicenter of atmosphere, and the lyrics are about what you'd expect. In terms of a comparison to For the Glory of UR, it succeeds for wholly different reasons. That was more of a traditional black metal effort, while this is more for the pagan/epic sect. Not the first album of its type that I'd immediately break out for a fix of barbarous antiquity, but where I might have given this an average grade upon first exposure, it's gradually grown upon me.
Zemial is one of those bands that have been around since the late eighties, yet have never been compelled to write, record and release a full-length since recently. Having been a prominent member of the Greek scene for well-night twenty years, Zemial have been putting out quality EPs, splits and demos since 1992.
As stated above, this is Zemial’s first full-length since the band’s inception in 1992, contains seven songs and clocks in at about thirty-seven minutes. The first thing that the listener is bound to notice is the epic quality in the music; in fact, the album exudes it the same way Varathron’s first LP does. The guitars are the main vehicle for this quality, especially in light of the brilliant soloing that takes place; the large number of unconventional instruments and sound effects (such as wind chimes, water gongs and clashing swords) add to the atmosphere while not being present enough to become overwhelming. The drumming is adequate; nothing in particular stands out, but in the case of this album, that’s the idea. As for the vocals, Vorskaath employs a technique that comes out sounding like the cackle of an old crone or a witch. The production of this album is very clear; unfortunately, this is where it loses points.
The production of this album is my only real complaint on this album; for a band that plays black metal with a significant dose of heavy metal injected into it, the album should have a slightly muddier sound to add depth to it. However, a very solid album from one of the shining stars of the Greek scene.
Originally written for Terror Cult Zine.
Zemial is one of those dangerously underrated black metal bands. One of those who've been around since the early 90s and have never received the recognition they deserved.
The first time I heard of them was the pretty good "For the Glory of UR" CD. While it was not mind-blowing or overly amazing, it still delivered the goods. Now, only a few weeks ago, I got my hands on Zemial's new album "In Monumentum". To be honest, it didn't quite impress me at the first listen. It took me a while to fully appreciate its musical quality, but now many songs on "In Monumentum" amaze me.
Zemial play a very Bathory-influenced style of Greek Black Metal, with lots of heavy and viking metal elements. "In Monumentum" is supposed to be a memorial release for the deceased Quorthon and it fully succeeds at it's task. The album is filled with lots of midpaced "Hammerheart" - esque riffs and amazing lead melodies. The vocal work is a mix of a well understandable black metal rasps and well done, at times choir-like, singing.
Some synths are added in the background, adding lots of epic atmosphere to the album. But don't worry; they are never overused or distracting.
If you're looking for a breakneck-speed album, you're reading the wrong review. Speed outbursts are very rare on this album, but it never gets close to being tedious or repetitive. Vorskaath's drumming is mostly simple, yet very effective at giving the songs their necessary drive. Some nice fills are used as well.
I won't write a track-by-track review here, since you can't really go wrong with any of the songs, but I want to highlight my two absolute favourites.
The first one is "March of the Giants". The song has a very long build-up, but you'll see, it's definitely worth it. It's pace reminds of what Quorthon did on this last two "Nordland" releases and it manages to capture it's atmosphere as well. Even though it has the mentioned long build up, it stays interesting all the time. The sole purpose of the song is to lead into this absolutely breathtaking solo section. I repeat, the song is great, do not underestimate it, but the solo is the definite highlight of this album, it's epic, it's melodic, it's absolutely fantastic. But you'll have to hear it yourself to fully believe me.
The second highlight is "In Monumentum - Stone of the Ages". While it's definitely one of the calmer songs on the album (it's not very "aggressive" overall, but you'll get the point), it features great acoustic guitar work and amazingly well sung vocal lines by Vorskaath. It has got a great solo too, so there's really nothing missing here. Probably the most atmospheric song I've heard in ages.
So, in conclusion, this album is worthy of the title "masterpiece". If Quorthon would still be alive today, he'd be proud of these fantastic, yet heavily underrated musicians.
Recommended to all fans of Black/Viking/Heavy metal.