Title: The Charnel Expanse
Label: Memento Mori
Review by Vermox
The Charnel Expanse is an album that can be compared to the likes of Immolation only on a superficial level. Although there are many comparisons based on the surface level parallelism of the Immolation sound, Zealotry have managed to carve their own distinct sound through their assimilation of many other apparent influences.
The serpentine and angular riffage and otherwordly atmosphere occasionally punctuated by off-kilter rhythms brings to mind the more immediate thought of Demilich, but also avant prog acts like Present. There are flourishes of Timeghoul through the almost constant use of counterpoint, however, without the story driven thematic development that Timeghoul made heavy use of in their sound. This use of counterpoint also brings to mind the stylings of the Baroque era, but melodically suggests a Romantic influence (the leitmotif from the opening track Avatars of Contempt part I resurfacing at the end of Avatars of Contempt part II showing the connected theme is evidence of this). The vocals are mostly similar (even in tonality) to the Immolation-esque phrasing with a rhythmic punctuation coupled with drawn out phrasing throwing them off the rhythmic path, also deviating from most of the “follow the guitar lines” vocal “melodies”/patterns found in the vapid, knuckle-dragger pseudo-death metal pervading the greater spectrum of death metal.
There are many rough surfaces to this release that could do with a touch of refinement. Structurally it holds up well with the exception of a few segments that could be resolved with more logical conclusions. Nevertheless, sections do generally segue well, without the incessant stop/start jerking actions of most technical death metal outfits. The production is possibly the biggest issue on this release, not because it’s by any means underproduced, but due in part to the lack of instrument separation to clearly highlight the counterpoint. This is a fairly complex album and would benefit from better instrument separation.
In light of these apparent issues, no single release is perfect. Zealotry clearly understand death metal. They understand structure. This is a great ascent for death metal in recent times. The Charnel Expanse is bubbling with the enthusiasm of tried and true fans of death metal and picks up where death metal left off at its peak with Close to a World Below, Nespithe, and the like. If you are a fan of death metal in its glorious, creative peak, this album is well worth your attention, time and money.