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Review : Zealotry - The Charnel Expanse by Metal Archives

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

Via Metal Archives : "With their fantastic debut The Charnel Expanse, Zealotry easily achieved modern classic status. Their music featured many familiar sounds from the death metal world blended in a way that sounded fresh and exhilarating. Three years later they're back with The Last Witness, an equally ambitious offering, which not only serves as a meeting ground for a vast array of death metal styles, but branches out beyond the genre to explore new avenues. I'll be honest, I like Charnel a bit better, and this is probably because they combined essentially everything I like about death metal in one thoroughly badass package. Here, Zealotry sinks their talons even deeper into oddball prog territory, with a Univers Zero influence proving especially prominent. The band also treads lightly into jazz fusion and even neoclassical territory. Where they really succeed is not just coming across as a festering heap of eclectic influences, but using these to craft a coherent identity of their own, and of course having the songwriting chops to make that identity fully realized.

Zealotry are a thoroughly ambitious outfit, and all this wouldn't work without immensely talented musicians at the helm. First and foremost, the guitar on this is fucking insane. The riffs here are twisted, sometimes with the angular insanity of Phil's main project Chthe'ilest and sometimes more slow burning and vaguely doomy, and often meeting somewhere in the middle. Demilich wouldn't be a bad comparison for a lot of the riffs, Zealotry taking more of the doomier and creepier, leaving most of the groovier ones for Chthe'ilest. There's lots of other Finndeath here, lots of classic American OSDM - needless to say Zealotry know their shit. Phil does his crazy shredding thing now and again, this time much more in line with what you'd expect from death metal rather than the '80s traditional metal shredding of Chthe'ilest. He still injects a fair bit of melody into the otherwise grimy sound with his solos, though. The bass refuses to play second fiddle to the guitars, from the technical insanity in its standout section in "Yliaster" to the full on bass solo in the title track, the bass finds way to shine through the overwhelming insanity of the guitar. Like everything else, the drumming delivers. The fast hard hitting sections are great, but the most interesting drumming here is when things slow down a bit and some really intricate cymbal work happens. Add some deeply ominous cavernous death growls to all this and you have a winning formula.

Although they sound nothing alike, the approach here immediately made me think of Greek black metal band Spectral Lore's magnum opusIII. Both albums take on a massive scope and could have easily deteriorated into a jumbled clusterfuck if not backed by immense musicianship. Both take in a great wealth of styles within their chosen metal genre and pair it with influences that transcend the scope of metal altogether. Another parallel I see is the brilliant use of counterpoint. While Spectral Lore's counterpoint tends to be far more melodic, Zealotry's revel in restrained dissonance. There's so much going on with the dual guitar, although in many places it's subtle enough that there's something cool to discover with each subsequent listen. The dual guitars are especially tantalizing during the slower sections, with doomy Findeath riffs simultaneously slithering into your ears.

Like The Charnel Expanse, Zealotry saves the best for last. "Silence" is an absolute titan of a song and easily the best the band has ever managed. It begins with some excellent classical guitar, features some of the most straightforward and ass kicking riffs in their arsenal and even has some fucking cello in it. Cello is one of the most beautiful instruments ever and pretty much always a good idea in extreme metal (and lots of crust bands have used it to great effect, as well), here it provides both atmosphere and a nice contrast to the constant barrage of blistering alien insanity. And thus ends an excellent album. Zealotry really covers all the bases and then some - dope riffs, weird extraterrestrial atmosphere, scorching guitar solos, excellent songwriting ect. ect. They have proved their debut wasn't just beginner's luck, and I have a feeling we'll see a few more awesome albums from them down the road." 93/100.

Originally written by Thumbman for

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