One of the things I really love about being a weathered fan of this genre is watching how abiding bands progress over the long stretch. The evolution often ends in varying degrees of laughable collapse, sure, but when the results are productive, the payoff can obviously be substantial. Such is the case for one-time Hellenic black metaller, now Germany-based cosmic metaller Archon Vorskaath’s one-man endeavor, Zemial.
Together with bands such as Varathron, Necromantia, Kawir, Agatus, and of course Rotting Christ, Zemial played an integral part in propagating the burgeoning Greek black metal movement in the late 80s/early 90s. Similar to their Norwegian counterparts, this scene’s primary objective focused on tapping directly into ye olde primordial soup: raw, unyielding energy, heavy on ghoulish atmosphere. One of the underlying characteristics that helped set much of the Hellenic sect apart, however, was the choice many of the root bands made to stress a more mid-paced, galloping and melodic “traditional metal” crux, and Zemial surely stood out in that regard: “Battle on the Norse Mountains”
2006’s under-appreciated In Monumentum found Archon pushing boundaries even further: still raw, raspy and razored, but an increased emphasis put on floating atmospherics further bolstered through light, beautifully played acoustic guitar. With Nykta – full-length number three – Zemial has shucked the delicate acoustics and Bathory worship for an altogether unexplored beast that culls influence from all manner of odd angles. There’s still plenty of bite, but less black metal and more thrash/speed. Weird thrash – like a collision between Celtic Frost and Universe era DBC (another underprized gem). And it’s all swirled together with one of the more compelling examples of how to appropriately blend progressive psychedelics within metal music that I’ve heard in quite some time. “The Small” travels a bit too close to Animals era Floyd in the riffing, but Archon’s overall use of spacey keys, progressive/weirdly jazzy stretches, and pleasant atmospherics is what pushes Nykta into “must hear” territory for those with a more adventurous ear.
Truthfully, any one song will fall short in communicating the full gist of the entire picture. Those already familiar with 2011’s Dusk EP (also on Hell’s Headbangers) will likely consider Nykta a very logical progression, though. In fact, “In the Arms of Hades” is revamped and stretched an additional four minutes here, and the extra mile is definitely satisfying. Also worthy of mention: Vorskaath’s technical ability behind all the instruments is fucking impressive, particularly with regard to the drums and bass, so those who normally steer clear of one-man projects in fear of being subjected to some sort of “jack of all trades/master of none” affliction can rest easy.
If you like it weird, thrashy, Frost-y, psychedelic, galloping, raw and above all else, adventurous, you owe it to yourself to check out Nykta – one of 2013’s more intriguing releases.