01. Zeal & Ardor 02. Run 03. Death To The Holy 04. Emersion 05. Golden Liar 06. Erase 07. Bow 08. Feed The Machine 09. I Caught You 10. Church Burns 11. Götterdämmerung 12. Hold Your Head Low 13. J-M-B 14. A-H-I-L
Regularly tipped as heavy music's next big thing, ZEAL & ARDOR mastermind Manuel Gagneux may be beginning to wonder what more he has to do to bewitch bigger audiences. After two widely acclaimed albums, his band are still being touted as the next big thing, and even if you came to this new record cold, without ever having heard ZEAL & ARDOR before, there is a solid chance that you would come to the same conclusion. Marking a small but significant evolutionary step for its creator(s),"Zeal & Ardor" offers an upgraded version of all that went before and the most strident and convincing expression of Gagneux's vision yet.
The subversive shades of soul, blues and gospel music that made 2016's "Devil Is Fine" such a striking debut are present and correct, along with the startling brutality of the band's heaviest moments, wherein Gagneux morphs from sun-blasted balladeer to slavering caco-daemon with eerie finesse. As ever, what could easily have been a mess of disparate elements seems to fit together perfectly, aided greatly by the clever way that Gagneux blends studio trickery with the fiery dynamics of a real band. If it didn't all sound so instinctive and natural, you might suspect cynical motives. As it is, "Zeal & Ardor" is utterly believable.
Still firmly committed to the filthiest and most distorted of low-end tones, ZEAL & ARDOR begin album number three with a two-minute, eponymous overture hewn from thudding, industrial grind and heat-haze atmospherics. It's a stunning starting point, and one more than backed up by "Run", a thrillingly untamed encapsulation of the ZEAL & ARDOR effect, wherein tribal drums and scything, blackened riffs duke it out with a blizzard of vexed electronics. Anthemic and cheerfully blasphemous, "Death To The Holy" whips swamp blues, horror movie keys and at least three massive riffs together, with Gagneux leading a furious call-and-response over machine-gun kicks and shadowy synths.
It may be telling that ZEAL & ARDOR, have produced some of their most willfully extreme and eccentric material here. "Emersion" brings sugary, futuristic electronica and hammer-attack blasting together in a swirling eddy of post-rock fury; "Erase" is an imperious, electro-metal march with haunted campfire trimmings; "Feed The Machine" begins in stomping spiritual mode, before mutating into an evil, neck-wrecking tech-thrash mantra. But it's the most streamlined and slick encapsulations of Gagneux's musical plan that hit the hardest. Whether it's the scream-along blues-metal of "Church Burns", the pitch-black groove metal assault of "Götterdämmerung" or the unholy spaghetti western shtick of "Golden Liar", ZEAL & ARDOR's unique journey through the dark is still electrifying.
BLABBERMOUTH.NET uses the Facebook Comments plugin to let people comment on content on the site using their Facebook account. The comments reside on Facebook servers and are not stored on BLABBERMOUTH.NET. To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@)gmail.com with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).