Album Review: Zeal & Ardor – “Zeal & Ardor” (Black Metal/Soul)

Written by Barlow

Zeal & ArdorZeal & Ardor
Black metal/Soul from New York, USA
Released February 11, 2022

It is as clear on this 2022 self-titled as it has been on both of Zeal & Ardor’s previous efforts that genre expectation comes secondary to the actual artistic expression in each song. While that does sometimes create an inconsistent experience, and some experiments work better than others, there’s no denying Z&A are bringing something extremely unique into this space.

With that in mind, it is easy to see why this 2022 album may have missed the mark for fans of the previous two albums, as this is the greatest departure from 2017’s Devil is Fine (which, for the record, absolutely fucking slaps). There is still a tremendous amount of black metal and death metal present on this album, but we’re also seeing the introduction of some more rock and blues influences as well. “Emersion”, the fourth track on the album, gives a tonal whiplash as it shifts between what almost sounds like the soundtrack to an inspirational scene in a movie to ferocious guitar and screams seemingly out of nowhere.

Disorientation aside, there is a lot of skill on display and a real sense of personality coming through the music as well. Even if there is a change here from the earlier albums, this is still unmistakably a Zeal & Ardor record. Manuel Gagneux has explained that the album continues the narrative of his work so far, a world where American slaves found Satan – and this album represents the chapter about what came after the escape and what the grand plan could be.

As ever, Gagneux is critical of religion, society, America, and everything that those things entail and there is no denying that on full display. Songs like “Death to the Holy and Church Burns” set that tone very well with some exceptional aggression, and songs like Run or Feed the Machine remind you exactly why you’re here.

The Bottom Line:

Zeal & Ardor is putting out some of the most interesting avant-garde metal right now, and while this may not be what everyone is hoping for, it follows through on the thematic purpose of the three records thus far and is absolutely worth your attention. Right now, go listen to it.

Zeal & Ardor (2022) was released February 11, 2022.