To say that I’m excited about this new Zeal & Ardor record would be an understatement.
In 2018, Manuel Gagneux will be bringing the heavy stench of death, the sweat and pain of hardship and struggle, and the shadowy figure of religion back into our minds again with Zeal & Ardor’s highly anticipated second LP, ‘Stranger Fruit‘, which lands on June 8th.
After having spent months hidden away crafting these 16 new songs, and after giving fans a great tease with that live recorded clip of ‘Don’t You Dare‘ (which also features on this forthcoming LP, mastermind Gagneux entered the studio last year with producer Zebo Adam and mixer Converge’s Kurt Ballou to finally pull all of the puzzle pieces of ‘Stranger Fruit‘ together at last. Now, by the sounds of the record’s first two songs, ‘Intro‘ and ‘Gravedigger’s Chant‘, this new album is going to be something very special indeed.
Released over the Easter period and with melodies and instrumentals caught in stunning limbo between blues and black metal, as well as a truly haunting refrain of “bring the dead body down“, new single ‘Gravedigger’s Chant‘ is a tonally bleak and lyrically ominous omen of what’s to come from ‘Stranger Fruit‘. Even more so when you place ‘Intro‘ into the equation and experience both chilling tales back to front.
On the macabre ‘Gravedigger’s Chant‘, the always well-spoken Gagneux noted that: “The gravedigger’s chant is the song sung by the people who lay your body to rest. These people don’t care where you were, but they know what you did and who loved you. All they know is what lies before them. So they sing this song since you can no longer breathe a note.” Seems right up his alley to make a song about, really.
Mixing together scorching moments of black metal with darker, eerier washes of blues, gospel, and soul really has opened up a world of possibilities for Gagneux and his band’s sound. Because if there’s one thing that black metal is fucking good at, it’s merging effectively well with other non-metal styles. Also, with the band no longer being a one-man project and becoming a fully-fledged, internationally-touring outfit, everything has suitably gotten bolder, larger, heavier, and denser here. Far more so than anything that Zeal & Ardor did on its satanic spiritual debut LP, 2016’s solid ‘Devil Is Fine‘. Which makes me very excited for what this band could achieve now as a full unit and with an even wider vision to uphold.
Check out the music videos for both ‘Intro‘ and ‘Gravedigger’s Chant‘ in their proper chronological order below:
‘Stranger Fruit’ tracklisting:
02. Gravedigger’s Chant
04. Don’t You Dare
05. Fire Of Motion
06. The Hermit
07. Row Row
08. Ship On Fire
10. You Ain’t Coming Back
11. The Fool
12. We Can’t Be Found
13. Stranger Fruit
16. Built On Ashes
Photo Credit: Stian Foss