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

Zemial - "In Monumentum" (CD)

Zemial - "In Monumentum" CD cover image

"In Monumentum" track listing:

1. For A Fallen One (6:31)
2. Born Of The Crimson Flame (4:29)
3. I TAN I EPI TAS (3:42)
4. Remembering Those Lost (3:13)
5. March Of The Giants (7:07)
6. Riddle (4:17)
7. In Monumentum / Stone Of The Ages (7:50)

Reviewed by on August 8, 2009

"While Zemial is billed as a black metal band, they frequently stretch the boundaries of what it means to be black metal."

Zemial has been around since the beginning of the black metal scene, but for whatever reason they’ve kept themselves in the underground and eschewed the mainstream success that the other originators enjoy. “In Monumentum” is the band’s first full-length effort after years of releasing a long stream of splits, demos, and EPs. Constantly on the move, “In Monumentum” is an album that frequently goes in new directions.

While Zemial is billed as a black metal band, they frequently stretch the boundaries of what it means to be black metal. Large portions of the album are heavily influenced by the Viking and doom genres, and the violent screams often get passed by in favor of clean singing. “In Monumentum” definitely isn’t a full force sonic assault, but instead is more of a free-form and shifting concept of music that the audience gets to explore.

The album starts with “For A Fallen One,” which begins as a mid-paced black metal track with higher than average production. The vocals are somewhere between a croak and a shriek, but are delivered with enough enunciation that about every other word can be made out clearly. The real atmosphere of the album becomes apparent as the song hits the midway point. An extended period of acoustic guitar is accompanied by clean vocals that give off an honest feeling of grief and loss. As the segment comes to an end there is some use of a chime sound effect which will become a regular player during the rest of the disc.

“Born of the Crimson Flame” shifts gears into more gothic and creepy territory. A pipe organ intro gives the track all the trappings of a moonlit Transylvanian evening. The growled vocals receive the echoing filter treatment that many black metal bands use, however they sound significantly different than in other albums due to the higher end production. Quite a few sound effects and backing synths get used during the song, and like all of the other tracks they are very distinct from the core sound of the guitars and drums. While there are rampant symphonic elements, they aren’t meant to blend into the music but rather are a separate entity that generates atmosphere.

A large portion of “In Monumentum” is focused on themes of battle and honor, but the emphasis is decidedly more on mourning the lost than on glorifying warfare. “Remembering the Lost” is dedicated entirely to the concept, and does a superb job of emulating its title. The final track “In Monumentum (Stone of Ages)” also heads into melancholy territory, and has the best blending of atmosphere with epic guitar work and clean vocals.

Since the album does a lot of meandering, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are a few occasions where it manages to get lost. There are some short instances when the chiming sound effects fail to properly mesh with the music and come off as cheesy, although they don’t ever bring down an entire song. The black metal vocals do also blend together as there isn’t much range present, but the problem is minimized with the number of sound effects applied to the vocals and the frequent clean singing.

“In Monumentum” may not be fully appreciated by black metal enthusiasts looking for lots of blast beats or a wall of sound. Metal fans who enjoy black metal but also want a little more experimentation in their music should be right at home with Zemial’s first full-length, however. Hopefully the next one won’t take 15 years to see the light of day.

Highs: Compelling atmosphere of loss and mourning, lots of experimentation.

Lows: Some of the sound effects are a little cheesy, the black metal vocals lack variation.

Bottom line: An experimental black metal album with heavy themes of loss and frequent clean vocals.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)