A Nocturnal Emanation

Jan. 31, 2020


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Listen to Zalmoxis

German black metal musician Entheogen has been busy in recent years, releasing material with A Binding Spirit, Ås, and Fortress of the Olden Days, which all captured different elements of the genre while retaining a raw edge.  In recent years he’s also brought back Zalmoxis through the expanded release of two demos that date back to the early 2010’s.  For the follow-up to those much earlier recordings Entheogen has branched out considerably and composed his most ambitious effort to date, the twenty-four and a half minute A Nocturnal Emanation.  Made up of a single song that sprawls outwards with layers that are both hypnotic and terrifying, it’s likely to take a few times through to absorb every nuance but the first listen will convince many to take the plunge back and come back for more.

Rather than launching directly into harsher distortion and blast beats like you might expect, Zalmoxis starts off much slower with layers of guitar that hang over the air with a specter-like presence and drums that have a methodical, ritualistic to them.  Early on this combination of the sparser guitars and pounding drumming creates a hypnotic feeling that lulls the listener into a false sense of security before the distortion picks up significantly and blasts away at every piece of their being.  Compared to the two demos the recording has a much fuller sound that provides added clarity while still maintaining an appropriately raw edge, and this allows each section of the song to come through.  One-song releases of this type sometimes run the risk of falling into repetition or dragging out their ideas, but the repetition here is handled in a way that keeps the listener engaged and the multiple climaxes that the material reaches draw you in at just the right moments.  It’s also worth mentioning the drums, which have an industrial edge at certain points and are reminiscent of some of Blut Aus Nord’s use of the drum machine as there’s a similar cold edge.  A Nocturnal Emanation can be a lot to take in the first time through, but the eeriness of the melodies and the jagged edges of the distortion prove to be convincing and invite you to peel back the layers on repeat listens.

In similar fashion to the instrumentals, the vocals begin on the softer end of the spectrum and ramp up to much harsher and nightmarish levels.  This doesn’t mean that they don’t have an immediate impact though, as Entheogen sings/chants in a way that suggests something much more terrifying is around the corner and this proves true once he breaks into a scream that sounds truly inhuman and otherworldly.  The remainder of A Nocturnal Emanation moves between these two ranges, with both the clean and distorted pitches heading up and down the pitch spectrum as the song edges towards its conclusion.  It’s an approach that pays off for Zalmoxis as the vocals follow a similar journey as the instrumentation and provide natural twists and turns that can hook its audience.

Entheogen has accomplished quite a bit with this latest Zalmoxis release, and it not only provides a captivating listen that twists and turns into nightmarish and hypnotic directions but further distinguishes this particular project from his other bands.  There are familiar elements of black metal at work throughout, but they’ve been stretched out and transformed into material that feels different.  Hopefully if Zalmoxis moves towards a full-length at some point this same type of ambition will remain, as there’s plenty of potential for many of these ideas to be taken even further.  A Nocturnal Emanation is available from Signal Rex.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg

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