Zealot Delivers Solid, Stellar Set

I went to Wall Street a few weeks ago, mainly to see the band Solvi. A friend strongly suggested I get there early enough to see the first band playing that night hard-rock/hardcore act Zealot. I had heard the band’s name plenty of times, but because I had been consistently entrenched in other people’s albums, I had never actually heard them.

As people began to wander upstairs where the bands play, I looked around and tried to figure out who Zealot might be. No luck.

I was talking to Aaron, the bassist of Solvi, when what turned out to be Zealot started to set up. They didn’t have any shoes on. I have no thoughts on that. They just didn’t have shoes.

Before I realized it, Zealot started their set. In all of about 8 seconds, I abandoned my coffee, a cigarette (lit), and a conversation with some random guy, in order to get up front. The instant I heard them start, I realized I was hearing what could have only one of two people on bass. And I knew for a fact that one of those two were not even in the state, which left the one: Brandon Law.

I realized I had been told numerous times that Zealot, and Law in particular, were pretty intertwined with another band for whom I maintain a deep admiration and respect, and for whom Law plays on a semi-regular basis.

Although I had never heard Zealot, I was familiar with Law’s work with respect to that other band’s live performances, which I had seen on video. And he’s good. Really, really good. Without getting overly complicated, Law’s technical skill is at least on par with Geddy Lee (Rush?no joke), and his tone comes closest to John Taylor’s (Duran Duran), yet he plays a bass that has six, not four strings?but is still tuned in fourths.

The guy is good enough to easily overshadow a normal four-piece band, but Zealot is thankfully quite abnormal.

As I stood and listened, I realized that there was a lot of really interesting stuff going on with guitarist Martin Freeman, as well. His style seemed to be a blend of total bluegrass?finger-picking, hollow-body guitar, the whole thing?with really hard rock. Mark Knopfler meets Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden). It was wonderfully inexplicable. I later found out that Freeman had never played rock at all prior to joining Zealot?only bluegrass. In retrospect, it made total sense.

Percussionist Brian Law seemed to alternately drive or anchor the band, depending on which was called for. He was clearly skilled enough to not allow brother Brandon to accidentally overplay him, but knew when and how to utilize a more subtle, jazz-like approach that simply enhanced what the bass and guitar were doing.

Probably the most inexplicable thing about Zealot (aside from their lack of shoes) was vocalist Brain Price’s eerie ability to almost match Law’s tone. It’s more evident in the band’s demo tracks, but I still caught it live, despite venue-related sound issues. He actually reminded me a bit of Serj Tankian (System of a Down), but Price keeps it to the lower, less annoying registers. Additionally, he’s a hell of a front man, sometimes literally taking his performance down into the crowd, and always emoting with total sincerity.

Overall, the performance was stellar, despite those house sound (and lighting) issues. I know I was totally glued in one spot the whole time. My friend texted me at the end of Zealot’s set to ask whether I had made it in time, and if I had seen them. At the time, I was making my way down the extraordinarily steep stairs that serve as the load-in for the venue. I about broke my neck trying to text back “Zealot=Awesome.” I quickly gave up and just called. It seemed safer that way.

Go check these guys out at myspace.com/zealottheband and get a sense of where Zealot is headed. They have been in the studio with Kevin Edlin and are anticipating the release of their LP New Vanity late this summer.

Zealot plays Thursday, March 27, at Club 527.


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