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Zeal & Ardor – ‘Zeal & Ardor’

Ihsahn, Sigh, Leprous, Sólstafir, Deafheaven
Release Date
February 11, 2022
Avant-Garde/Blackgaze/Black Metal/Industrial

What started with “What if…”, and went on to became a full-blown musical project reaches milestone third album for Zeal & Ardor, and on this outing the Swiss/American mixed genre metal heroes deliver some mighty fine goods with the self-titled follow up to the already excellent 2018 “Stranger Fruit”, and 2016’s debut “Devil is Fine”.

How they came up with mixing Black Metal with African-American Spiritualism is a question asked of project leader Manuel Gagneux many times before; we’re not about dwelling too much on the band’s history other than how it has led to its present. This latest release expands on their quite unique formula, both in reaching further into the spiritual folk traditions, and focusing even more Black Metal power as appropriate to give immense contrast and stark dynamic shifts.

Lead single “Run” has pounding primal rhythms with highly complex Black Metal riffs and vocals to give a mildly unnerving, tense atmosphere. Cool video too. “Emersion” sees a playful, almost Kids TV jingle-along interspersed with white-out moments of extreme Black Metal noise whilst “Golden Liar” summons the Deep South spirit of the Black Keys and Lynyrd Skynyrd,, and adds epic Black Metal and Gospel in equal measures to provide possibly the highlight of the whole album. Highlight that is until the last two tracks; if you take them together as one J-M-B and A-H-I-L are still over with quicker than the majority of the stand-alone tracks, yet have content and power to burn, and can be seen as a distillation of the progress of the band as a musical project to date. Quite stunning.

"Their best to date; but still a slightly confusing entity as an album artist. Go see them live for best results"

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