Zealotry – The Charnel Expanse (2013) — REVIEW


Oh man this record.

Creeper info. before I get into the music: I used to lurk in the ol’ MetalTabs and Rivers of Gore forums back in the day when tabbing guitar was all the rage and there was a lot of traffic in that site’s direction. At least one of the guys who wrote this brilliant tangle of death metal contributed to both sites if memory serves me well.

If you’ve been introduced to Chthe’ilist’s 2012 demo there’s an important connection as  Philippe Tougas, one of the sculptors of that gruesome death construct is also on lead guitars here. Couple him with Roman Temin and the result is something quite different from that record but with the same quality and skill involved. More old school and grotesque. So if you hunger for the days of Demilich you will want to hear The Charnel Expanse.

While that’s the primary influence you could foist on them bands like Arghoslent, Death, and The Chasm are all in it’s orbit too. Perhaps a little Timeghoul too. This also enters the orbit of stuff like the new Lantern record, however I’m enjoying this even more as the content feels a little less safe and rough.

A key difference between Chthe’ilist’s sound and Zealotry is the former has a much more intense psychological vibe similar to Ævangelist while Zealotry feels like it’s still shaking off rigor mortis, cracked and spindly passages flowing from an alien crypt rather than a portal.

This may have to do with what I suspect is Temin’s influence in the band as I believe he’s a founder of Zealotry while not a member of Chthe’ilist. It’s clear his style and background gels on very well with with Tougas’s it would seem. The other two members play crucial roles as well, certainly the drumming which really helps congeal the other elements and the sparse keyboard on the last track.

What is also clear once you’re into this expansive record is a lot of time went into the writing, and making this massive structure cohesive, sounding very dirty, gruff and vile while being remarkably exploratory.

Generally I prefer this approach to the overly polished and hollow immaculacy of a lot bands whose writing is generally elaborate. I can enjoy that absolutely, but there’s always something about this kind of shit that keeps you coming back to strip the layers away.

Shit doesn’t get out of hand. Lots of malformed and syncopated riffs and rhythms traveling in labyrinthine patterns purposefully, and classic death growls to smother you with. The group of musicians involved are channeling a much needed sound in death metal.

These guys bring back more than old idols and substantive structuring but relevant soloing as well (as you’ll hear in ‘Blighted’, ‘Codex Mysterium’, ‘Decaying Echoes’, etc.).

Overall the focus has paid off, the record rarely showing a wobble with the transformation from the first demo to this full length being fairly staggering. As are the songs.

The first three tracks, titled as three parts ‘Avatars of Contempt’, form a journey which flows almost as one song quite nicely, but things here are far more old-school and technical, paced well for such a spool to unwind.

‘Avatars of Contempt, Part I’ reveals the album with an otherworldly atmosphere in the opening interaction between guitarists over the slippery bass lines and sparse drums. A more rough section follows  and then into a tangled brush of technicality at an even pace; one guitar spiking over other while a third is buried below. That’s one thing that makes a difference is the pacing of their skilled, packed material.

The last half of the song at 2:20 in a hypnotic blanketing of riff takes hold briefly and then gets submerged beneath more stumbly parts. A brief pause for a vocal build brings everything to part two.

Part II is the shortest segment starting with more sick solos (lots of sweeps and whammy work, really oldschool Death sounding) and quickly steps into a slower more dissonant sway. The part that follows smacks of the oldschool and is followed by something that is definitely more Defeated Sanity and Time Ghoul.

The seamless transition to Part III right after the solo sees the return of that icy sway. This time it leads to a more nautical themed section with clean guitar in the middle. It breaks away on it’s own into a very uplifting moment, and gets dragged down by scraping, feedback and pinched harmonics, piled on thumping kicks and cavernous growls.

It’s the old school cosmic tomb approach and it’s satisfying as all hell.

Now if you haven’t been paying attention and that Demilich influence has escaped your notice, I advise you skip right to ‘The Dysgenicists’ and enjoy some convincing worship. This track reeks of Nespithe and I love it. The occilating riffs, persistent kickers, excellent use of pinched harmonic and . Then they add in several Death-esque solos in the middle and then later on which slays

This is a song that reaches deep backwards in time and draws back with it a massive wave of nostalgia—with a great boost from their own styles contributions to old formula.

CD art: "Mutagenesis" by T.G. Rantanen.

CD art: “Mutagenesis” by T.G. Rantanen.

‘Blighted’ is one that gets stuck in my head, one of my favorites here. It is a pretty complex, riff and percussion stacked track getting progressively more entrancing, starting from a tremendous clean open under a beautiful solo. The rest of the instruments come in with he growls into a powerful, triumphant passage. Lots of stuff going on is each channel and it’s all sick.

They reanimate the opening clean section through tremolo’s a few times too. After that things become more angular, dissonant, filled with pinched harmonics and abrupt stops branching out with gnarled limbs flailing. Order is restored by the last minute into a terrific dirge, and at the end it should be obvious that despite influences their sound is their own born out of chemistry and patience.

‘Decaying Echoes’ does not allow a decrease in the steady yet maniacal death construction Zealotry embarked on here. Another merciless trac song, it contains an absolutely awesome twice repeated whammy driven solo/riff that encircles some grimey rhythms among all the other chaos, and starts off nice and chunky to pull you in.

It evolves intro a tremolo riff, and then further mutats complex mountain of percussion and tremolos, slowly getting faster, and in the middle that perfectly placed wailing solo.

This is also the first song after multiple listens where I always start to notice the bass contributions stick out more, the same goes for the three following tracks in some respects.

Anyway the bassist plucking is easier to decipher and far more punchy in this track especially the long runs between the two and thre minute mark and right at the end. It’s tough to fight out of that tangle of sounds. Even saying that a close listen will pay off with some very intricate and bubbling licks.

The title track is a spellbinding incantation right from the opening uneasy passage, then weaving the chasmic vocals with some angular chords to slowly envelop you directly afterwards. The Charnel Expanse delves into thick, slow atmosphere all over this track with occasional augmentations to the entrancing patterns in drums and riffs. Not remaining cozy however the choppy, tangled attacks return and blend with single string leads which climb amongst each other; eventually a spacey bass solo outro breifly.

‘Codex Mysterium’ is the only instrumental and has a exponentially more evil vibe in the opening moments, the fluttering bass lines complimenting the tremolo riffs and drumming well. Huge and creative runs overtake after this point and become denser once the blistering solo punctures the weave.

‘Apex Predator’ mixes the title track’s slow crawl with more intricate and thick patterns, making this one of the more beefy and intense on the record next to the final entry. Scrapping breakdowns over Demilich harmonic squeals and distant leads and solos, a hydra of percussion working diligently with these.

And at the end of this mutated creature the outro track “The Unmaking” stands. A far grander sounding track compared to the rest somehow. It employs more synths than the others, certainly not to a fault, the opening is appropriately grand with some creep atmosphere (the church bell chimes coupled with the kicker blasts) following that as the gangly tremolo riffs unravel.

The build and the solo at the two minute mark pay off significantly, the latter part is the strongest in this record yet with a great use of pedal effects. Nearing the four minute mark the guitar work steps it up, and even more so a minute later right before the synth/spoken word break that leads us to the end. The final riff that cascades infinitely is a really heavy one, flanked by another spacy solo to make the last few moments quite memorable.

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There’s not one disappointing song on this album and there’s a lot of staying power in general in the style they’re displaying. This is an extremely intense death metal resurrection on display.

Do not hesitate to snap this shit up. It’s currently available only through their bandcamp page. However the CD press is being handled by Memento Mori Mailorder out of Spain.

It’s soon to be released, and the first one hundred people who pick it up on bandcamp (and fill out their shipping information, of course) get a copy of CD once released. I’m not sure if that’s hit capacity yet but you can follow them on facebook to get updates on all of this.

One thought on “Zealotry – The Charnel Expanse (2013) — REVIEW

  1. Pingback: FOCUS: YEAR END — 2013 | THE|PLOW|BEHIND|YOU

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