Zeal & Ardor - Stranger Fruit review



Reviewer:
9.5

92 users:
8.13
Band: Zeal & Ardor
Album: Stranger Fruit
Release date: June 2018


01. Intro
02. Gravedigger's Chant
03. Servants
04. Don't You Dare
05. Fire Of Motion
06. The Hermit
07. Row Row
08. Ship On Fire
09. Waste
10. You Ain't Coming Back
11. The Fool
12. We Can't Be Found
13. Stranger Fruit
14. Solve
15. Coagula
16. Built On Ashes


Devil Is Fine made some gargantuan waves two years ago with its surprising blend of African American spirituals, black metal, and some electronica for good measure. But the gimmicky nature of the sound meant that pressure on the follow-up would be great to maintain interest. So here we are; Stranger Fruit is finally Zeal & Ardor in full form.

By now I suppose you are more or less familiar with the origin story of Zeal & Ardor, but I'll dive a bit into it regardless. Manuel Gagneux, who already had his metal-free Birdmask project, posted a thread on the /mu/ board of 4chan and, under certain rules, posters would get to choose two genres that he would blend into a song. One of those combinations happened to be black metal and a certain not-so-nice derogatory term (it's 4chan after all) for black music. The idea did stick with Gagneux, and after a less coherent but still interesting self-titled debut came Devil Is Fine, which put Zeal & Ardor in the spotlight, and the rest is history. One thing that both of the first two releases have in common is the disjointed feel that such a short album with so many diverse short songs has. Now comes Stranger Fruit.

Zeal & Ardor is no longer just a bedroom project of Gagneux, introducing an ensemble of five more musicians first as a live band and now some also in the studio. This, coupled with the fact that this is the first non-independent release of the band, does give Stranger Fruit a more cohesive and complete feeling. The production still sounds raw, but a more polished type of raw, one that only supplements the vibe of the music without taking anything away. While there is less of an emphasis on electronic elements, this puts more emphasis on it sounding like a band. The electronic elements instead work to give certain tracks a gargantuan and cinematic feel. Not only that, but the album's run time has almost doubled, so Stranger Fruit is miles ahead of Devil Is Fine as far as sounding like an album is concerned.

The songs themselves, while also not being much longer than ones on the previous two, feel more like cohesive songs instead of just skeletal ideas. With much of the appeal of tracks like "Come On Down" and "In Ashes" being how much of an impact this blend would make upon virgin ears, the ones here make less of an impact from this point of view, since the spell is already broken and this is no longer something unheard of. But that doesn't make the songs here any less impactful, much of the impact being the increased mastery in blending the sounds together without it sounding unnatural. Thus with Stranger Fruit building upon its predecessors in a more natural way, it feels so familiar and so alien at the same time.

Tracks like the "Sacrilegium" ones are still present ("The Hermit", "The Fool", "Solve"), but have less of a weight in the final product than they did before, though they do act in a way as intermezzos to separate acts. Because Stranger Fruit does the blend so well, it feels like both sides of the blend have a larger and more refined presence. While not all songs have a clear black metal sound, it is still present throughout, thus making Stranger Fruit feel like a metal album instead of an album that happens to have some metal. The soul is also much more apparent with Gagneux's singing voice in songs like "You Ain't Coming Back" and "Built On Ashes," supplementing the shouted vocals in the other tracks.

With improvements of this calibre, Zeal & Ardor proves that there is plenty of vitality in this sound and it will not die as just a gimmick. But will they be able to maintain it for the next couple of releases without adding some new elements? We'll likely see in two more years.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Production: 9


 



Written on 08.07.2018 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments

Comments: 12   Visited by: 123 users
09.07.2018 - 09:10
Cynic Metalhead
Atrocious Virgin
I don't find anything remotely interesting about Z&A. Never understood such a hype. It is now becoming one of the most overrated band of modern metal music.
----
Loading...
09.07.2018 - 10:13
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Cynic Metalhead on 09.07.2018 at 09:10

I don't find anything remotely interesting about Z&A.

Well that's your own problem
----
Professor Isak Borg: And the punishment?
The Examiner: I don't know. The usual, I suppose.
Professor Isak Borg: The usual?
The Examiner: Loneliness.
Professor Isak Borg: Loneliness?
The Examiner: Precisely.
Professor Isak: Is there no mercy?
Loading...
09.07.2018 - 11:03
boo-boo
I wasn't really into this album that much when I first heard it (compared to Devil Is Fine which I dug as hell). But after seeing the band live, I can't stop listening to it. The way these songs work in concert is mesmerizing.
----
World won't end today - it's already tomorrow in Australia.
Loading...
09.07.2018 - 11:05
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by boo-boo on 09.07.2018 at 11:03

I wasn't really into this album that much when I first heard it (compared to Devil Is Fine which I dug as hell). But after seeing the band live, I can't stop listening to it. The way these songs work in concert is mesmerizing.

This is great news, as I'm seeing them live in a few weeks
----
Professor Isak Borg: And the punishment?
The Examiner: I don't know. The usual, I suppose.
Professor Isak Borg: The usual?
The Examiner: Loneliness.
Professor Isak Borg: Loneliness?
The Examiner: Precisely.
Professor Isak: Is there no mercy?
Loading...
09.07.2018 - 13:11
musclassia
I wouldn't be quite as positive as you are, I did think some of the songs (moreso in the second half, aside from Built From Ashes, which I'm a big fan of) didn't stack up to the best of this album, and I wasn't as keen on the interlude pieces here as I was of the Sacrilegum tracks on Devil Is Fine, but overall I like it a lot and definitely think it's a good follow-up to what was an outstanding debut.
Loading...
09.07.2018 - 15:19
boo-boo
Quote:
This is great news, as I'm seeing them live in a few weeks

The concert was totally crowded despite relatively lousy time (1:00 in the morning, last day of a three-day festival) on a multi-genre (i.e. basically non-metal) festival. The shpow was so lively, everything worked precisely as it should. Also, pay attention to the two backing vocalists, they are doing some great job there. And a female bass player is always ua plus imho.
----
World won't end today - it's already tomorrow in Australia.
Loading...
09.07.2018 - 15:43
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by musclassia on 09.07.2018 at 13:11

I wouldn't be quite as positive as you are, I did think some of the songs (moreso in the second half, aside from Built From Ashes, which I'm a big fan of) didn't stack up to the best of this album, and I wasn't as keen on the interlude pieces here as I was of the Sacrilegum tracks on Devil Is Fine, but overall I like it a lot and definitely think it's a good follow-up to what was an outstanding debut.

I scored it as 9.5 as a nod to the backlass Windrider's review of Devil Is Fine received. I feel that now, Z&A fixed a lot of the issues that their previous record had. I don't really think that the record does lose any steam, since it's not really that long, but yeah, the Sacrilegium tracks were better than the interlude ones here, especially the ones on the first edition of Devil Is Fine.

And yeah "Built From Ashes" is phenomenal. Wish they'd do more songs like that.
----
Professor Isak Borg: And the punishment?
The Examiner: I don't know. The usual, I suppose.
Professor Isak Borg: The usual?
The Examiner: Loneliness.
Professor Isak Borg: Loneliness?
The Examiner: Precisely.
Professor Isak: Is there no mercy?
Loading...
09.07.2018 - 16:08
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by Cynic Metalhead on 09.07.2018 at 09:10

It is now becoming one of the most overrated band of modern metal music.

"It" sure is an interesting way of spelling *Deafheaven
----
This is the water, and this is the well
Drink full and descend
The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within
Loading...
09.07.2018 - 19:38
Darkside Momo
Retired
Written by RaduP on 09.07.2018 at 11:05

Written by boo-boo on 09.07.2018 at 11:03

I wasn't really into this album that much when I first heard it (compared to Devil Is Fine which I dug as hell). But after seeing the band live, I can't stop listening to it. The way these songs work in concert is mesmerizing.

This is great news, as I'm seeing them live in a few weeks

I wouldn't be as raving as many who attended their Hellfest show, but it was really nice so I guess you'll enjoy it
----

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you" - Ray Bradbury

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I'm awake now"
Abney Park (Letter Between A Little Boy & Himself As An Adult)
Loading...
13.07.2018 - 22:47
RichardPickman
Holy Shit!!! Gospel/Blues etc. mixed with Black Metal? Im sold. I love it. Its so sarcastic/ironic. One of my faves this year.
Loading...
15.07.2018 - 18:53
Fallen Ghost
Craft Beer Geek
Written by boo-boo on 09.07.2018 at 11:03

I wasn't really into this album that much when I first heard it (compared to Devil Is Fine which I dug as hell). But after seeing the band live, I can't stop listening to it. The way these songs work in concert is mesmerizing.


So you can recommend that I see them at Wacken?
Loading...
16.07.2018 - 09:01
boo-boo
Quote:
So you can recommend that I see them at Wacken?

Absolutely.
----
World won't end today - it's already tomorrow in Australia.
Loading...

Hits total: 1746 | This month: 1746