On first sight of the album cover of “The Charnel Expanse”, it should become quite clear what Zealotry is all about. The twisted, psychotic looking creature immediately gives off vibes of dark, cavernous death metal. Not unlike Immolation and Incantation (who appear to be the primary influences), Zealotry also deliver crushing death metal characterized by strange riffs, unique usage of pinch harmonics, and massive drumming. There is a perpetual use of melody, but it is done in a way that enhances the brooding atmosphere, as it compliments heavier riffs underneath the leads. The guitar solos show homage to Immolation axe-shredder Bob Vigna, with their almost backwards approach to lead guitar.
Continuing along the Immolation path, vocalist R. Temin does an impressive job matching Ross Dolan’s unearthly guttural vocals. Beyond the Immolation worship, there are some surprises. “Avatars of Contempts” (a 3-part track) features a moment of clean guitars in the middle before it returns to sheer brutality. Likewise, “Blighted” opens with some softer moments prior to excruciatingly heavy guitars come in. Additionally, the lyrical approach on the record tends to give “The Charnel Expanse” a different atmosphere from your typical death metal record. Combining these types of lyrics with a mostly slower approach creates a feeling of endless dread and hopelessness. Musically, this sound comes from the combination of at least a couple of layers of guitars, and Lille Gruber’s (Defeated Sanity) drumming. While he certainly knows his way around the kit, it is his drumming in the slower moments that makes this album so heavy. At times, he leaves huge spaces in the drumming to let the riffs breathe, while at others, he relentlessly unleashes double bass to make the rhythms more pounding. The mixing of the drums is perfect, as they’re a bit louder than normal, so the focus is on the rhythm side of the record, but they’re in no way distracting or annoying.
Overall, “The Charnel Expanse” is an impressive offering of old-school sounding death metal. There is a wave of Incantation clone bands at the moment, but Zealotry is truly something above and beyond most of these bands. It takes a lot for me to get excited about a newer death metal band, and Zealotry have done a pretty impressive job of creating a unique sounding record that will leave you wanting more.
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“Avatars of Contempt”
4.2/5 or 84%.