The Midweekly – Zeal & Ardor

The Midweekly is our column from Mike Jeffers; lead singer of Chicago punk stalwarts SCRAMmusic junkie and all around righteous dude.

Take an old sound from a young country, and a new sound from an old country. Build a bridge between them inspired by an ancestry from both. That’s what avant-garde metal heads Zeal & Ardor are all about, and what they continue to do on their latest self-titled release. That ancestry lives inside the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Manuel Gagneux. The child of African-American and Swiss parents, both musicians themselves, Gagneux embraces the differing cultures, and transforms them into something new. Metal being the genre he grew up loving the most, it takes the front seat in Z&A, but almost every track has elements of blues, and old spirituals. A stomping, rhythmic beat, accompanied by hand claps and a woeful chant, reminding you of the American south, easily segues into lightning double kick drums, shredding guitar riffs, and monstrous shrieking out of the Nordic hinterlands. To give it all an extra touch of atmosphere, synths, piano, and even distorted horns play a key part in the production. The album’s lyrics for the most part are what you might expect from the genre. Reflections on the worst parts of humanity, controversial and otherwise. There are a few takes that get into the question of faith, or American hegemony, as well. All delivered through the dueling vocal ranges of either a soul singer, a grindcore screamer, or an amalgamation of both. Even bridging the languages of English and German. At the risk of becoming outliers, dismissed by the black metal scene, or scoffed at by blues aficionados, Zeal & Ardor forge ahead, taking their style of metal to new, and surprising places.

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