Black metal combined with gospel, blues and rock? Weird combos indeed… but not for Zeal & Ardor. Formed by Manuel Gagneux as a 4chan challenge, this project has gained quite some strong recognition ever since the debut album “Devil is Fine” was released in 2016. 2 years has passed and the project is back with a new album called “Stranger Fruit”. As with most of the artists who experiment and combine different styles, Zeal & Ardor fall in the category of either “I love it! It’s so different” or “What is this guy trying to prove? This doesn’t make sense”. As with me, I was in the second category back when the project bloomed. However, with this release, I wanted to give it a second shot.
First things first, this is a long album with 16 songs. It’s not atmospheric or highly progressive but there is so much going on that you need a few spins to take it all in. There is also surely the deep meaning behind the songs and much more than the “Luciferian” thematic going on. There is a bit of that melancholic and dark approach hidden under that dynamic and experimental sound as well; combined with the social messages and the deep concepts, this style is what attracted me in this album in the first place. This also makes it a smooth listen as the album will just flow.
When we are talking about Zeal & Ardor, it’s impossible not to praise the main man’s talent. His vocal style ranging from black metal to gospel forms the essence of the album but I felt the most intense emotions in the soul & gospel styles and through his clean vocals in all this chaos and ‘darkness’… and this is what makes this project so unique! There is gospel, black metal, post-rock and avantgarde metal, nicely interwoven with the production and his unique vocal style. Depending on how open and “metal” you are, some songs will stand out more while others will be your less favorites. However, let’s not forget one thing: This album will not make everyone happy and this highly depends on whether you are fine with this weird combination of extreme styles. One thing is certain though; there is more than the Luciferian theme and the ‘weird’ music so take this into account while listening to the album.
“Stranger Fruit” is definitely one of my favorites of this year. I always appreciate albums that just flow and show a unique perspective of blended styles. Recommended for especially the ones who like to experiment with their metal music!
Highlights: Fire of Motion, Don’t You Dare, Gravedigger’s Chant, Stranger Fruit