Zeal & Ardor
Radicalis / MVKA
Zeal & Ardor’s debut platter ‘Devil Is Fine’ saw Swiss songwriter Manuel Gagneux take the world of heavy music and shake it up, injecting blues, soul and gospel with a rush of extreme metal in a manner that was bold and fresh.
‘Stranger Fruit’ has a lot to live up to from the offing but Manuel manages to take the strengths of the debut, the fiery riffs and delicious vocal harmonies to a whole new level. The title itself, a play on Billie Holiday’s jazz classic, which was in turn a ground-breaking protest again the hideous lynching’s and treatment of black people in the U.S.A. is a bold statement of intent that this is no novelty flash in the pan act that’s ready to fade away.
Tracks like the pulsing ‘Gravedigger’s Chant’ and the urgent ‘Don’t You Dare’ are steeped in sweet soul covering righteous anger, hitting out against racist oppressors and their would be spokes people with a message of no surrender.
A celebration of black culture fed through the prism of extreme metal and electronic music, Manuel has only increased the darkness on ‘Stranger Fruit’ which benefits from a typically lush mix from Converge man and Uber producer Kurt Ballou.
The only question mark lies over the synth interlude ‘The Fool’ which feels little more than a segue way but it’s the exception on a remarkable sixteen track release that manages to span a myriad of genres largely without self-indulgence. Whilst a less overtly accessible venture than rightly lauded debut ‘Devil Is Fine’, ‘Stranger Fruit’ shows a band unafraid to shape their musical roots around exciting new forms.