The dozen tracks that make up The Zealots’ new album, Open Season are underscored throughout by energetic power-pop riffs, punchy percussion that edges up against hyperactivity, and boisterous lyrics.
The Zealots formed in New York in the ‘80s and have seen a number of iterations. Now based in Asheville, the lineup includes George Terry on lead vocals and guitar, lead guitar/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Price (who also produced Open Season), Christian Ferri on bass and poet-drummer Caleb Beissert.
The album maintains its signature sound (designated as much by Terry’s distinctive voice as the musicianship), but also touches on an array of styles and influences. “The Man Without Qualities” is part ironic flippancy, part tidy dispatch of the modern dependence on pharmaceuticals. “It was nip and tuck, adios and good luck,” sings Terry over a track laced with Celtic-tinged strings. “Another Human” blends reggae grooves with churning alt-rock, while “Swim At Your Own Risk” is as bouncy as it is bristly, its guitars jangling and growling at turns.
“Open Season” threads pretty strains of steel guitar through the shimmer of snare for a slowed, countrified turn. It’s not quite a slow dance (the lyrics are a bit too bitter for a two-step), but it’s custom made for tapping-your-toes-and-turning-up-your-beer. On the other side of the country spectrum is “Peanuts N’ Pepsi-Cola,” a chugging roadhouse number driven by electric guitars and rockabilly swing. It’s one of the album’s highlights — Terry’s voice taking on an Elvis-like snarl and the solos red-hot and danceable.
Open Season is book ended by two very different tracks — the jangly word play lead song, “Peace In Peaces,” and the confessional “Read Your Mind.” Both share with the rest of the album a certain world weariness (perhaps unlucky in love?), but those misgivings take shape in a well-crafted song cycle that’s as thoughtful as it is dynamic.