Saturday, 16 June 2018

Zeal And Ardor "Stranger Fruit" (2018)

They say things come in threes, so here's to hoping we get another cracking album coming are way soon as just over a week ago we had Ghost's Prequlle and now Stranger Fruit, both of which will be contenders for album of the year. Returning two years after a sensational amount of hype around the Devil Is Fine mini record, Manuel Gangneux recruits a full band of musicians fit for amazing live performances and only drummer Marco Von Allmen appears on the record, performing the drum sections written by the talented Gangneux, who once described his visionary project as the African slaves rising up against their masters, inspired by the devil Satan.

With that in mind the project progresses forward on a stunning stride, opening up a wealth of influence and experimentation to his sound while retaining the Chain Gang backbone and core theme. Gangneux shows his influences with streaks of traditional Black Metal between the hellish onslaught of noisy, textural Post-Black Metal that's truly comfortable experimenting with some Nu Metal and Groove Metal sensibilities at times, even extending into orgasmic riffage, chugging low grooves and fostering offbeat time signatures in an unusual setting. Its riveting, the guitar work is often invited to come to the forefront and steal the show however it is not the lone ingredient in conjuring the infernal beast to rise up against masters.

The vocals and lyrics do fine work setting the tone, building up the atmosphere of hell and dread situated to a unique fictional history. They build up themes and stories with croaks of crooked wisdom in Gospel vocal sections that Gangneux performs along with a range of styles varying from spoken word, reciting poems from Alister Crowley, to venomous screams of hurtling anger and ferocity. As his guitar work scales the walls of creativity and variety, so does the entire vocal package, his word both written and sung with emotion and a burning passion that bringing to life the grimace of forced labor in the unforgiving southern sun leading to devilish places.

Between the fuller tracks, a handful of instrumental interludes aid the records flow as these already dynamic, progressive tracks are given some breathing room. The familiar sounding precarious lullaby vibes return and the music rids itself of the trap beats heard on the Sacrilegium song. In general the synths take a far more accompanying approach with only the piano playing an upfront, cultural role alongside vocals the but it all cohesively fits into a vision where the aesthetic guitar extremities and imposition of theme bring about the climatic moments. It feels as if every song leads to them and are without weak points to discuss. Stranger Fruit is a beautiful record of esoteric darkness ripe in experimentation that works. The execution of outside the box ideas and another avenue of evil make this one of the most exciting projects in Black Metal today.

Favorite Songs: Gravedigger's Chant, Servants, Waste, We Can't Be Fooled, Stranger Fruit
Rating: 9/10