A few years removed from their debut album, Zealotry has returned with a follow up record entitled “The Last Witness”. Fans of the band will be pleased to hear that this album is similar in sound to the first record, except that the band occasionally takes things a step further on this album. For newcomers, Zealotry’s music can best be described as truly twisted, insane death metal. Taking strong influence from Immolation (among others), Zealotry mixes a sideways style of riffing with plenty of dissonance, tremolo picking, pinch harmonics, and various other techniques to create an unsettling atmosphere. While I wouldn’t go as far to call them a technical death metal band (especially given the connotation that label has taken on in recent times), there is no doubt that the riffing here is quite intricate. A riff will start in one direction, and then abruptly shift in another direction. This sound has the ability to fail miserably if done poorly, but fortunately Zealotry are experts are their craft. Despite the fact that the end result may occasionally feel jarring, it results in unbeatable, almost spacey atmosphere.
The weirdness on this album isn’t just limited to the riffs; there is plenty of popping bass playing, mind-bending solos, and many other strange melodies and rhythms. “Progeny Omega” in particular is one such unique track because it shows the band experimenting with its more epic, orchestral side. In particular, the latter half of the song manages to use these elements quite successfully, and the sound is even brought back later on in the album during “Silence”, but in a more subtle way. “Mutagenesis” is another standout song, as this effort is the culmination of all of the band’s distinctive traits. It is the song that is the most “out-there”, but ends up being quite enjoyable as a result. There are moments in this track where I have no idea what is going on (particularly the first minute, as well as the wild solo a couple of minutes in), but it just adds to the album's aura.
It might be a little unfair to Zealotry to simply characterize them as being a band that gets by on their willingness to step outside the box. Make no mistake, there is plenty of impressive death metal playing to enjoy here. The sheer number of riffs on this album is endless, and there is good variety between slower, crawling moments, and the classic high-speed riffage so common to death metal. In fact, Zealotry makes use of plenty of blast beats, though moreso in a huge cavernous way, rather than in a “bash your skull in” way. Regardless, the outcome is wicked!
The only criticism I have of “The Last Witness” is its length. It’s no secret that I always prefer brevity in music, and this particular style of death metal does tend to wander a little more. The result is that some of the songs breaking the 8-minute barrier tend to feel like they meander a bit too much. It doesn’t have a major impact on the end product, but this record would probably be a little more digestible if it were closer to 40 minutes. Nevertheless, it is a not only a worthy purchase, but also a relatively unique entity in the death metal scene!
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"Arc of Eradication"
4.0/5 or 80%.
Written by Scott