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The Vinyl Word On...Zeal & Ardor

The Vinyl Word On...Zeal & Ardor

I’ve always maintained that when a band or artist releases a self-titled record a few years into their career, it’s because they feel that the record in question is the best representation of them as a band or artist. It feels like a culmination of what they’ve been working towards in terms of their vision for what they want their music to be. After following Zeal and Ardor since the release of the first record “Devil is Fine” in 2016, and the follow up “Stranger Fruit” in 2018, I can say for certain that his is the strongest record to date, and perfectly encapsulates what the man behind Zeal and Ardor, Manuel Gagneux, has been working towards for the last number of years.


It might be an oversimplification, but the music is pretty much a straight mash up of black metal mixed with slave spirituals. In one moment, you’ll find yourself singing along with the big, hooky chants before a massive barrage of guitars and drums kick in the door, and Gagneux turns his bluesy vocals into guttural roars. It can be jarring at first, but once you’re on board you get used to it very quick.


After an atmospheric, self-titled opening track that wouldn’t feel out of place in the trailer for a Jordan Peele movie, the first track proper is the amazing “Run”, that sets the tone for the rest of the record. Huge drums, big distorted guitars, and multiple different vocal styles, to the point that you’ll find it hard to believe it’s only one person behind the microphone. “Death to the Holy” follows the same pattern, before we get a brief respite with “Emersion”, which is an instrumental track that introduces some electronic elements to proceedings. “Golden Liar” and “Bow” sit on the less heavy side of things, and there are times when Gagneux uses his vocals in a more soulful ways, similar to how Hozier would (although that’s where that comparison ends). If it’s pure metal fury you’re after, “I Caught You” and “Gotterdammerung” definitely fit the bill, as they are two of the strongest metal songs I’ve heard in years.


With fourteen tracks in forty five minutes, the album takes you on a real rollercoaster of a journey, but it sits comfortably among the more dynamic metal records of the last number of years, and it never fails to surprise with the different directions it takes.

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