Friday, December 18, 2009

Zemial - Sleeping Under Tartarus (1992)

Sleeping Under Tartarus is the first official release from the Hellenic Black Metal band Zemial. This E.P. was released in 1992, by Torched Records. It was limited to only 1000 copies. Though being one of the earliest bands in the scene, Zemial joins the likes of Thou Art Lord, Legion of Doom, Agatus and others, in forming the second wave of Hellenic bands that I discovered, thanks to a good friend of mine in Larissa. Again, I had little idea of what I was to experience, as I first listened. All I could imagine was that I'd hear more of the standard Rotting Christ / Varathron rhythms. This one, of course, surprised me.

"Sleeping Under Tartarus" has, somewhat, of a slow build before it gets going. There is a faint hint of keyboards, but the song is driven by the fuzzy and distorted, mid-paced guitar riffs. The sounds is a bit on the necro side of things, though the playing is top-notch. There's a great lead solo, as the song nears the half-way point. The pacing is very reminiscent of classic Bathory, and could have just as easily come from Scandinavia as from Hellas. There are a decent amount of old school drum beats thrown in. In the latter half, there's a nice cold riff that doesn't truly send chills up your spine, only because of the 'warm' production. Still, the bitter cold feeling tried to fight through this warmth.

The next song is "Falling Into the Absu", which definitely has more of the Greek vibe. It's mid-paced with a lot of drum fills and a very memorable rhythm. The vocals, as with the previous song, are kind of buried in the fuzzy production, but they aren't too low, by any means. There's an epic feeling to this piece, despite being relatively short. Again, the keyboards make a brief appearance, only to accentuate the atmosphere already being created by the rest of the instruments. The whispered vocals add some eerie sentiment to the song, being done quite well.

This E.P. ends with "The Scourge of the Kingdom", which possesses a faster tempo than the last track. It consists of fairly fast drumming, that alternates from almost blasting to a more mid-paced feel. The guitars, naturally, go from the faster tremolo-picked riffs to more relaxed chords. Of course, the song is quite dynamic and flows back and forth, with ease. As with the other songs, some cold melodies attempt to break through the warm sound. While the freezing effect is never achieved, the riffs are memorable. Quite a feat for such a brief song.

With my lack of knowledge of this musical scene, it's impossible for me to say just how much of an impact Sleeping Under Tartarus had, but considering the quality of the material and the year it was released, I'd have to imagine that it had a decent impact back then. Seek this out, if at all possible.