Zealotry’s debut full length can best be described as an enigma wrapped within a puzzle. It’s a challenging listen, but at the same time its multi-faceted nature can leave you nothing less than fascinated. Every listen will herald something different, as new layers and nuances continue to present themselves, further sucking you into the perpetual abyss of riffs. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s not the most immediate or welcoming album at first, and the dense atmospheric approach may come across as a bit of a cacophony to those who don’t give it their undivided attention. While it is absorbing, it tests the listener throughout the entirety of the 46 minute runtime, resulting in an exhausting but completely rewarding experience.
What becomes apparent pretty quickly is that the drums represent the mechanism around which the rest of the band revolves. Of all the instruments, they are the most prominent in the mix, but before you freak out thinking this is going to be another triggered blast-fest, the other instruments certainly aren’t suffocated. While the drums do serve as the driving force, the guitars have seemingly endless freedom, weaving and slithering in between arrays of dizzying tremolo strumming, lingering power chords, atonal pinch harmonics and dual-guitar solos at will. The comparisons to Demilich’s Nespithe
, while exaggerated, are sound. There are noticeable parallels between the two albums, but at the same time Zealotry seem to have an acute awareness of what constitutes “influence” and how it differs from “worship”. The latter option just would not have worked as Nespithe
is an album that cannot possibly be replicated. Instead, Zealotry take some obvious cues like the twisted rhythm section and put their own little spin on it, creating a wonderfully unique and, dare I say, original death metal album.
The atmosphere of The Charnel Expanse
is almost palpable, which can largely be attributed to the relatively raw and distinctly reverberant sound engineering. As noted before, the drums represent the crux of the music, but the guitars still have a major presence. As they shift between soaring, crawling and galloping harmonies, the guttural vocals add another element of savagery, culminating in a discordant trifecta that can evoke images ranging from being locked in a mental asylum to being tortured in hell. The music itself though, isn’t especially violent. The Charnel Expanse
isn’t the hyper-quick death-by-gunshot we’ve come to expect from modern death metal. No, it torments the listener, ever so slowly but surely driving them insane, hearkening back to old school acts that placed more emphasis on mood than brutality. The song-writing is as dissonant as the instrumentation, once you think you’ve gotten the music figured out, everything will be turned on its head and the labyrinth you find yourself in will rearrange entirely. It’s an intricate web of tempo shifts and odd time signatures that will prove as addictive as it is maddening.
It’s not every day you find an album so unconventional in scope but so effective in execution. The band demonstrates an uncanny knack for crafting atmospheres both foreboding as well as absorbing, without the aid of synthesisers or cheesy samples. This is a very fine collection of some of the most discordant death metal you will hear in 2013, and considering its competition, that is no mean feat. Zealotry have created an absolute gem in The Charnel Expanse
and I would recommend it to anybody who is a fan of both weird and wonderful metal.