Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor (Album Review)

Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor
Released: February 11, 2022

Line Up:

Manuel Gagneux // Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Synthesiser
Marco Von Allmen // Drums


Official Website

The old adage goes ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’. In the music industry, regardless of the genre, there are scant few acts that can honestly claim to be concocting something truly unique. Swiss group Zeal & Ardor are one of those bands. The brainchild of frontman, multi-instrumentalist and producer Manuel Gagneux, Zeal & Ardor fuse the traditional sounds of early American blues, gospel and folk, with elements of extreme metal and industrial music, on their third, eponymous release.

While contemporary metal and blues might seem worlds apart, Gagneux works hard at balancing the two different genres together, both musically and lyrical. ‘Death to the Holy’ keeps a foot in the soulful and extreme, while potentially the album’s finest moment, ‘Erase’, brings the power of all their influences together, without sacrificing any of it’s gusto. ‘Chuch Burns’ and ‘Golden Liar’ lean more on the gospel side, while ‘Bow’ is almost a purely industrial track, showing that Zeal & Ardor can create great music without a heavy edge.

Later album highlight ’Hold Your Head Low’ doesn’t sound worlds away from modern-era Opeth. It’s opening moody guitars builds to a thunderous, wall-of-sound climax, led by Gagneux’s massive vocals. ‘Emersion’ throws in even more left field influences. The mostly instrumental number combines post-black metal, replete with blastbeats and a battery of guitars, and a borderline contemporary dance music style production. Perhaps some of the more traditional elements on Zeal & Ardor are lost in the overly polished sound; it’s modern sheen rooting it firmly in the current age.

Emersion’ shows that the melding on genres can sound shoehorned and forced at times, and frankly not everything works on the album. Some tunes do feel as if they’re seperate ideas pushed together for the sake of it, ‘Feed The Machine’ being another guilty party. The underwhelming closing tracks ‘J-M-B’ and ‘A-H-I-L’ ends proceedings on an anticlimactic note, being the two least impressive on the LP. The aforementioned ‘Hold Your Head Low’, which proceeds these songs, would have really brought Zeal & Ardor to a great close.

Having just toured with Opeth and Mastodon in the USA, and with a European tour tentatively lined up with Meshuggah later in 2022, Zeal & Ardor have all the potential to make a huge name from themselves in the metal scene. While it is certainly too extreme to appeal to the mainstream crowd, Zeal & Ardor has all the potential to crossover and appeal to those who can handle heavier music, but also want it to be diverse and openminded. 

While not everything on Zeal & Ardor gels together, when it does the Swiss act are truly one of the most unique and groundbreaking bands to come out of the heavy music scene in a long time. It’s an album that will take a little bit of work to get into – but for the most part it’s an engaging, addictive listen. This reviewer didn’t love everything on Zeal & Ardor, but the potential they have as a group to become the next big thing in metal, and beyond, is undeniable. Will they live up to the hype? Only time will tell.

Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor tracklisting:

1. Zeal & Ardor
2. Run
3. Death To The Holy
4. Emersion
5. Golden Liar
6. Erase
7. Bow
8. Feed The Machine
9. I Caught You
10. Church Burns
11. Götterdämmerung
Hold Your Head Low
13. J-M-B
14. A-H-I-L

Rating: 7/10
Zeal & Ardor is out Friday on MVKA. Pre-order here
Review By – Andrew Kapper. Twitter: @andrew_kapper