When you hear the term “one man band” what do you think of? I know in my mind’s eye I picture a old timey musician who simultaneously plays a guitar, a harmonica, a large bass drum mounted to his back, and cymbals strapped between his knees. Now flash forward to the modern day “one man band” of this review, Zemial, and it’s multi-talented member, Archon Vorskaath. Zemial was created in Greece in 1989. Now living in Germany, “Nykta” is Vorskaath‘s first full length album since 2006’s “In Monumentum.” If you were to ask what metal genre Zemial falls into most people would answer black metal. That may be true, but with one listen of “Nykta” it is easy to hear that Zemial offers so much more from other genres.
Like the majority of tracks, ‘Ancient Arcane Scrolls’ starts out in one genre and switches multiple times, from black metal to atmospheric to progressive to melodic, as quick as a blinking your eye throughout the song. ‘Eclipse’ is a mix of intense raw black metal riffs with undertones of punk. ‘Under Scythian Command’ is 2:56 of in your face thrash metal greatness. In my opinion, ‘In the Arms of Hades’ is my favorite track on the album and one of my picks for song of the year. It first appeared on the 2011 EP “Dusk.” This time around the song is 3:16 longer. It starts at a breakneck speed, ready to drive you off a cliff and then the track really takes a left turn and Vorskaath gives you an amazingly beautiful keyboard/guitar solo and the drumming that flows throughout the song complements the two superbly.
‘Deathspell’ once again shows Vorskaath‘s skills by starting with a fierce black metal tone only to slow down considerably at the midway point to fuse some doom elements within the song. If you’re not careful you can lose yourself in the wonderment which is “The Small,” a mellow spacey psychedelic trip laced with another great guitar solo. “Pharos” is the longest track on the album. It comes across as very sinister and dark, but just when you think you are going to fall into the bottomless pit of despair Vorskaath swoops in shutting off the madness and relaxing you with his soothing guitar work.
Now the “elephant in the room” is the last track, “Out of the Cage-3:33 for Drumset and Mechanical,” The song is based on John Cage’s “4’33 composition, his most famous and controversial work. In 1952 David Tudor sat before a piano at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, New York and proceeded to produce four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. The question is would the audience be satisfied listening to silence or would they feel cheated by having to listen to no composed music from the performer. Now when I first heard this I thought something was wrong with my download. After finding out that wasn’t the case I find myself siding with the dissatisfied side of the argument. Maybe I’m falling into John Cage and Zemial‘s experiment, but having to pay for a CD/download, which I did find out iTunes charges 99 cents for this track, only to find out it’s 4:33 of silence is greedy and lazy in my book. So I’d advise you to skip it. As for the vocals of Vorskaath they range from dark black metal raspy shrieks and howls peppered with some spoken word and theatrical maniacal laughing.
Now with that being said “Nykta” was a joy to listen to. I tip my hat off to one Archon Vorskaath for being a master of the “one man band.” It was a joy to listen to so many genres of metal packed into one album and have it done so well But please,no more silent songs, it hurts my ears to listen.