Album Review: Zeal & Ardor – Devil is Fine (Radicalis Music/MVKA)

Released on the 15th April 2016, Zeal & Ardor’s Devil is Fine has been steadily gaining popularity with little actual promotion. Word of mouth has seen it finally get a full release outside of Bandcamp. The brainchild of Manuel Gagneux, Zeal & Ardor combines black metal, slave chants & electronica to create a listening experience like no other.

Zeal & Ardor Main

Damn it…I really wanted to love Devil is Fine by Zeal & Ardor, I really did. I got really excited coming off the back of the singles Devil is Fine & Come on Down (click here to read an early review of that single). The originality in combining electronica, metal & slave style chants is incredibly exciting. The end result though just doesn’t hit hard enough & ends up feeling like a bit of a mess.

Opening with Devil is Fine, it’s a great start. The subtle piano playing, clanking of chains & Satan loving vocal chants just speak volumes to fans of alternative music. It’s something that intrigues as much as it excites.

Unfortunately it all goes a bit wrong soon afterwards. Remove the intense drumming from In Ashes & what you have is a basic & boring mess. The vocal style just sounds so flat & it doesn’t go anywhere. Whereas Sacrilegium I is 2 minutes of electronica that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Ibiza club. It’s horrible & will really make you question just what you’re actually listening too.

Come on Down is still as incredible as it was the first time it was heard. An absolute amazing blend of black metal & the spiritual rhymes. It’s the kind of song that makes you sit up & take notice. The way in which it drops out focusing on the chants before building back up into blasting heaviness is simply stunning.

Continuing with the ‘all over the place’ theme, Children’s Summon’s nursery rhyme style tune with chanting & intense hits of metal has its moments. The vocal style is a bit Ghost-like & it repeats itself a bit too much to really be memorable.

That it’s then followed by the pointless Sacrilegium II doesn’t help endear the very short album to you. 2 minutes of a tune that sounds like it’s being played out of a babies toy that’s just been wound up. It’s just another why moment for the listener.

It’s hard to shake off that feeling that Zeal & Ardor might have a few too many ideas hence the confusion of this whole record. Blood in the River ensures the second half of the album isn’t a complete waste. It plays around with the chants to give them a light rapping style but backs it up with a fantastic beat & some of the heaviest moments of the entire album.

The album ends with the double disappointing header of the Nine Inch Nails-esque, What is a Killer Like You Gonna Do Here? & Sacrilegium III. The former’s whispered vocals & a simple echoed bass beat that seems as though it’s building to a more aggressive finish just ends up petering out.

The final 2+ minutes of Devil is Fine is actually the best of the three Sacrilegium songs. The tune fitting the ‘style’ of African spiritual sounds better. On its own it would have been a great ending to an intense & eye-opening experience but instead it just goes by in another wave of disappointment.

Zeal & Ardor’s Devil is Fine is not a bad album, it’s just very disappointing. 9 tracks, 25 minutes long…it seems as though it’s more about showing off as many different ideas as possible. Songs like Devil is Fine, Come on Down & Blood in the River are incredible. Had the entire album stuck to this formula we might be talking about one of the best records of the year.

Unfortunately we’re not. Instead with shrugging shoulders music moves on & we can only hope that there is much more to come from Zeal & Ardor. Less Sacrilegium & more Come on Down please.

Devil is Fine Overall Track Listing:

1. Devil is Fine
2. In Ashes
3. Sacrilegium I
4. Come on Down
5. Children’s Summon
6. Sacrilegium II
7. Blood in the River
8. What is a Killer Like You Gonna Do Here?
9. Sacrilegium III

You can pick up Devil is Fine on all streaming platforms now, over on the official website here as well as on Bandcamp here. You can find out more about the project over on Facebook, on Twitter & on Instagram. You can also check out some of the music over on YouTube.

Finally Zeal & Ardor will be out on tour throughout early 2017 & you can find tour dates as well as ticket links on the website here. If you’re interested in just the UK dates you can find those out here.

Zeal & Ardor - Devil is Fine (Radicalis Music/MVKA)
  • 6/10
    The Final Score - 6/10
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