From their point of conception Boston, Massachusetts technical prog-death metal project had been mere collision of concomitant worlds, a forcibly eased conglomera of guitarist Roman Temin‘s sharp taste in intricate and challenging death metal orchestration. From roughly 2005-2011 Temin‘s vision would evolve into a balancing act between Immolation‘s creeping death and the cyclopean gnarl of Demilich thanks to the post ‘Radix Malorum’ (2009) demo addition of Quebecois multi-instrumentalist Philippe Tougas. Known for his multitude of technical Demilichian death metal projects, Tougas‘ guitar work now serves as the sole source of guitar performance (on record) as Temin continues to serve as vocalist and composer. If you’ve followed Zealotry from the beginning their progression has long appeared in development and without respite. With some of their more obvious influences thrown in the trunk ‘At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds’ appears driven by new demons with greater progressive metal aspirations.
The masses would all eventually agree on a convergence of late 90’s Gorguts, pre-’05 Immolation, and a more moshable kick of Demilich‘s ‘Nespithe’ between the formative ‘The Charnel Expanse’ (2013) and the more overtly progressive wail of ‘The Last Witness’ (2016). I don’t believe Temin‘s vision was necessarily meant to so overtly invoke those specific influences but at no point were those stylistic comparisons a detraction. What concerned me with ‘The Last Witness’ was its adjacency with Chthe’ilist‘s debut full-length, and the shared members between the two groups probably made the comparison that much easier to make. ‘At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds’ is something far more ambitious and perhaps even more ‘kitchen sink’ conceptual than ‘The Last Witness’ was. The most striking change comes with the death of their overt Immolation influenced rhythmic mapping and instead this latest Zealotry album finds some of the brutal twisted riff, and wailing guitar solo volley, of peak Brutality.
With this release Zealotry begins to resemble Luciferion just as much as it invokes the experimental guidance of Gorguts thanks to what I’d consider a terrifying mixture of keyboards, chants, and a vocal sound with the force of (early, least embarrassing) Deicide. Anytime I’d crank this record and sit with it, I found myself consistently musing over the rhythmic complexities explored as there is surely a ‘kitchen sink’ feeling but more in the Mekong Delta and Psychotic Waltz positive sense. That mix of the brutal, the strange, and the bursts of guitar virtuoso moments makes for a confounding listen. That isn’t such a knock as the desired effect of any progressive and technical death metal album is generally achieved through stymied complexity and bewilderment by way of the avant-garde. If anything this is the most successfully progressive work from the band thus far.
Think of ‘At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds’ as a painful bone spur that lies right beneath inflamed skin. Yes, there is some pain when it begins to cut through, it will surely bleed a bit as the excision progresses but, the endorphins and inflammation the body creates achieves a heightened stasis in avoidance of trauma. It evokes that moment of release after pain’s bondage, a regenerative shot of chemicals to aid in recovery, a different kind of balancing act than previous. Zealotry have yet to achieve any final ‘self’ and perhaps they don’t ever need to. At the very least I am grateful that they’ve moved away from the more predictable sound of their previous records and taken a lot of stylistic risks in creating something new. “The Hole” is a good example of risk leading to great reward as a crooked rock swing translates into a brooding semi-dissonant death metal track with atmospheric keyboard work hovering above.
There are a few meta issues I have with the record, but nothing entirely damning; The ‘shred’ guitar solos are overdone in the first half and underdone in the second. It reminds me of the sort of hit-or-miss nature of later Death, at least in terms of rock influenced lead guitars. Though I’ve got about two or three months of casual spins under my belt it took some focus to arrive at any sort of analysis of ‘At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds’. It isn’t so much an issue of density but of stylistic abandon and myriad experimentation that took a while to sink in. What could be repugnant and freakish at first glance will likely eventually grow on the average technical or progressive death metal fan. I found some reasonable value in the experience with some focused repetition and I’d give it a high recommendation on those grounds. In preview I’d recommend diving into the depths of “The Hole” first, just to get right into the Gorguts-ian muck of it all, and then “Lethe’s Shroud” to strike right at the most successfully realized ambitions of the album.
Tenebrous perpetual motions. 3.75/5.0
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