A bit under a decade ago, Manuel Gagneux was presented with a challenge to combine black metal and African-American spirituals – though it was put far less tactfully than that. What came of this unholy union of genres was, and is, a revelation – a richly cohesive, powerful expression that is far more art than gimmick.
Zeal & Ardor’s music, according to Gagneux, ponders the question “what if American slaves had embraced Satan instead of Jesus?”
Central to this sound is the vocals. Gagneux can offer truly soulful melody (backed by two other vocalists) but can effortlessly switch to screams that any black metal vocalist would be proud off. This alternating vocal delivery really cements this unusual genre combination.
Musically, Zeal & Ardor takes cues from a wide breadth of genres. There’s fast black metal riffs and blast beats, as well as soul and gospel, with these three elements making up the core sound. However, tracks also incorporate electronica, jazz, blues, and beyond.
Last year, Zeal & Ardor focussed on more modern themes, with the EP ‘Wake of a Nation’ being a direct response to the murder of George Floyd. These songs further evolve the mix of genres, including everything from a powerful piano-driven piece to confronting black metal.
Zeal & Ardor are a band whose future is something to be excited about, because there’s no telling what they do next. In fact, literally as I was writing this, they dropped a brand new track titled ‘Run’ and it confirms one thing – Zeal & Ardor still have plenty to say.