"some music was meant to stay underground..."

70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise

Zemial - "Nykta" (CD)

Zemial - "Nykta" CD cover image

"Nykta" 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

Reviewed by on September 25, 2013

"From epic traditional heavy metal to punk-infused black ‘n roll, 'Nykta' is all over the map when it comes to sound and style."

It’s been a long seven years since previous full-length “In Monumentum,” and now Greece’s Zemial has finally returned with another proper studio release. While the last album stretched the boundaries of the genre, “Nkyta” goes well past them for most of its run time, and there’s no getting around that this simply isn’t black metal anymore. From epic traditional heavy metal to punk-infused black ‘n roll, “Nykta” is all over the map when it comes to sound and style.

Like most of the tracks, opening song “Ancient Arcane Scrolls” is a wild ride that switches up the primary genre influence several times, switching between melodic, brutal, technical, and atmospheric at the drop of a hat. Immediately it’s apparent that “Nkyta” is a more energetic and less mournful album overall than “In Monumentum” (reviewed here), but these tracks also maintain an underground tone and execution, frequently bringing to mind lesser known bands like Root. To Zemial’s credit, despite the underground feel, the tracks actually keep up an audible and prominent bass presence.

Both “Eclipse” and “Under Scythian Command” have a rockin’ black-punk feel in parts, not all that dissimilar to Darkthrone, before “Eclipse” ends with an extended ambient segment. The mere four minutes of “Breath of Pestilence” is probably the most straightforward and cohesive offering, taking the black and roll feel from the previous songs and keeping them going for a full track. With all the constant changes it actually ends up being the odd man-out in the album, because the sudden stability in style is ironically jarring.

The changes don’t stop there though, as there’s everything from Opeth-style melodic guitars on “In The Arms of Hades” to cheesy demonic vocals (think along the lines of The Electric Hellfire Club) on several tracks. “Deathspell” could probably pass as a Marduk B-side, and then eighth track “Pharos” completely jumps the rails to create a sort of “metal opera” with extended talking and laughing segments. The middle segment is a fun proggy ride, but the song really doesn’t need to be 15 minutes, and the repeating ambient sounds in the final third of the track are unnecessary. With several clear and distinct transitions, it’s not clear why the track wasn’t broken up into three songs, or simply cut down by eight minutes or so. The final track is then 4:33 of complete silence, begging the question of why it got a name and run time to begin with.

Zemial’s comeback is an ambitious and daring project, but it isn’t executed as well as it could have been, and the disc opens with its strongest material, only to lose steam and coherence on the second half. Although rooted in a darker and more extreme style, it would probably be easier to just call “Nykta” an avant-grade or progressive release than to walk through each and every genre shift. Because of the winding, twisting road the album takes through any and all sub-genres, it’s about 50/50 whether anyone will love or hate it overall.

Highs: Strong bass presence, and many of the individual segments are interesting or headbang worthy.

Lows: The constant shifting of styles makes the album incoherent, and many of the extended ambient segments could be cut without losing anything.

Bottom line: Zemial covers just about every genre in a single release - to predictably uneven results.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)