Django sacrifices a goat on stage while intimidating slave chants roar and screeching guitar riffs burn in the background. Then the rhythmic chain rattling evoking a satanic summoning makes way for the eerily familiar melodies of Norwegian black metal.
Slave music meets black metal, mixed with electronica and trip hop beats. Yep, you read that correctly.
If you haven’t heard much about Zeal and Ardor, you probably will soon. He is probably the most unique thing to happen to the genre of black metal in a long time. I say he because Zeal and Ardor is a one man project. It is a fusion of styles mixing black metal with blues, jazz, hip hop, industrial and, the really new bit, gospel music. Not modern gospel music but the songs and chants sung by slaves and chain gangs from the 18th and 19th century.
Now switch the lyrics of those songs to satanic verses and you start to get a picture of what is so different about Zeal and Ardor. Created by Manuel Gagneux, of Swiss origins, but now based in New York, he has stated that it was originally a project for himself as he was amused by the idea of gospel voices singing satanic passages. He has mentioned that he wasn’t expecting it to be anywhere near as popular as it has become but I can see why it is. Not only is it different, but it is also clever and it works really, really well.
Everything you hear is written and performed by Manuel – nothing is sampled or cut to fit. It is the passion, backed up by skill, of one very talented man.
The album, Devil is Fine, is due out on the 24th of February 2017 through the record label MVKA.
This first song, Come on Down, is around 3 minutes and 20 seconds long and is the perfect introduction to this fresh and new sound. Starting with the gospel style spirituals over a simple hand clapped beat it grows in strength as more gospel voices add layers to the almost chant like singing. Guitars and short bursts of drums start building in the background until it explodes into a flurry of death metal guitar shredding and with a black metal scream you are transported to Scandinavia.
The insanely heavy music stops almost as abruptly as it started as the gospel singing comes back in for another verse. The song continues like that – short, brutal blasts of extreme black metal followed by sombre, gospel verses and bluesy singing and the sounds of chains and clapping before a heavy guitar solo leads you towards the end where there is time for one more bit of gospel like singing before the song ends.
I have to admit I feel a little gobsmacked right now. The mix of drums and chains, guitars and whips, black metal screams and gospel singing is a match made in heaven, or hell.
Come on Down is a fascinating and brilliant bit of music. Manuel is a bit of a genius and while folk and black metal have been mixed many times before, I don’t believe it has ever been done this way. You just have to hear this song, and the album, it really is going to be special.
Come on Down is available for you to check out on Spotify and Apple Music now. While the album has been pulled from Bandcamp by the new record label, you can still head over there to pick up a few tracks. Also, head on over to Zeal and Ardor on Facebook and Twitter and give them a Like or Follow.
Check out their website too for information on them and for news on the band and the album as well as the option to pre order it on iTunes.
Come on Down by Zeal and Ardor (Devil is Fine)