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There is something deeply satisfying when the visual, textual and audio components of a work of art blend seamlessly – the sign of a well-sculpted vision. That is the case with the third release of Germany’s Zalmoxis, A Nocturnal Emanation, where title, music and cover art create the mirage of a disturbing oscillation through darkness – a dream. Even the creator’s alias, Entheogen (the person also responsible for A Binding Spirit, Fortress of the Olden Days, and Ås), serves the concept.
Zalmoxis play finespun, gloomy black metal with a strong emphasis on atmosphere. The cavernous production aesthetics create a spacious cocoon in which the listener is immersed, akin to entering a dream incubation sanctuary of old, with the finespun guitar melodies as occasional, flickering guides. The riffs mostly dissolve into an almost keyboard-y impressionist essence, hazy, soaring, bleeding into the soundscape. When they do tighten up they are of a majestic countenance, drawing upon the timeless font of early Limbonic Art.
In contrast to the varied but ultimately unsurprising black metal rasps and whispers that haunt the album, the commanding clean female vocals that appear occasionally are of a deeply numinous character, somewhat reminiscent of their counterparts in Absu’s Sun of Tiphareth.
The ritual character is unpretentious and deeply felt here; as a result this is music to be immersed into, not be followed rationally. It lacks a tight structure, its boundaries are obscure, and it is extremely hard to isolate specific parts – even more so to remember them after listening.
Graced with an amazing cover (crying out for a tape release) by the Russian Morkh, somewhat reminiscent in style of David Herrerias’ work for Akhlys and Nightbringer, A Nocturnal Emanation is a release with somnambulistic themes, grand sweeping atmospheres, a gnarled expedition into nocturnal mysteries. Worthy of the name of a shamanic divinity of ancient Balkans, the band here fits well the theme of Andrew Chumbley’s Hypnagogia: the meeting place of sleeping, dreaming and waking.