Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Zemial - Face of the Conqueror EP (2003)

Face of the Conqueror was the first 'official' release of Zemial within 7 years of their full-length debut For the Glory of UR, so it makes a bit of sense that their sound had changed. However, the difference is not considerable, the Greeks have merely cleaned up the dirty and stock black metal aesthetics to incorporate some truer heavy metal and speed metal riffing with the same resonant, black snarl. Face of the Conqueror is rather fun as a result, never mindblowing, but pure in intention and well enough delivered that I admit I like the new tracks more so than anything they'd come out with before, and also considerably more than their other band, Agatus, which too had tidied up for its sophomore Weaving the Fates.

The best of the newer tunes strike early, with the mid-paced rocking of the title track, sort of a straight 80s epic/heavy metal piece circa Cirith Ungol or Manilla Road with black metal vocals and an acceleration into crisp speed/thrash. It's almost like a precursor to Darkthrone's evolution from 2006-2010, if not as memorable. "Impending Doom" follows with another, similar fast riff and some curling leads through the bridge. I enjoyed the bloodied, atmospheric vocals splattered over "Full Moon Necrophilia", but the driving riffs are a bit monotonous, while "ΔΑΙΜΩΝ (Daimon)" postulates a doom-like pandemic which is admittedly alluring. They close the core EP with a tribal/ambient piece called "Pazuzu Returns", but if you've got the band's 2006 re-issue of this CD, it also includes the Necrolatry demo from 1997, a missing chapter that picks up right where For the Glory of UR left off, a bridge between the material on that album and the more stripped down speed/heavy undertow found here.

With that material added, Face of the Conqueror almost seems like a consistent full-length, even though the demo was somewhat less produced. Songs like "Dragons Touch (The Eyes of Fire)" and "Possess by Twilight" are worth the time, so I'd certainly recommend you track down that version, if not both separately. In the end, Zemial is still not the stuff of legends, but the band's obvious love for old school black metal (Celtic Frost, Venom, Bathory) really shines here, and the EP will prove entertaining for those into their simply written, crude black/thrash like Aura Noir, older Bewitched (Sweden), and so forth, and it molds well to the barbarian and occult lyrics referencing subjects like Robert E. Howard's Conan universe. A good time here that compensates for the project's absence of many years.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10] (winds flood with delirious thoughts)


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