Zeal & Ardor - Wake Of A Nation review



Reviewer:
N/A

39 users:
7.51
Band: Zeal & Ardor
Album: Wake Of A Nation
Release date: October 2020


01. Vigil
02. Tuskegee
03. At The Seams
04. I Can't Breathe
05. Trust No One
06. Wake Of A Nation


If you couldn't tell from the title and eye-catching artwork, Wake Of A Nation is a politically charged EP.

That shouldn't really be a surprise to those that have followed the band; even before 2020, Zeal & Ardor's unique blend of soul and black metal focused lyrically on African-American slavery and the lives trapped by it, albeit through a somewhat Satanic perspective. Given the political and cultural turmoil in the USA in 2020 that has inspired plenty on the musical front, some of it better than others, the scene was set for Manuel Gagneux to shift his lyrical inspiration to more contemporary targets, including racially-motivated police brutality (made evident by the inverted cross/police baton mash-up in the artwork and track titles such as "I Can't Breathe") and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Whilst there is often an eagerness to label political lyrics in metal as contrived or cringeworthy, Gagneux's words avoid vague clichés and ably reflect the mindset of a man filled equally with fire and creativity. However, even more so than the lyrics, Wake Of A Nation is notable for offering good display of how Zeal & Ardor's sound has the potential to evolve in the future.

Devil Is Fine, the project's breakthrough album, made waves with its utterly unique combination of spirituals with extreme metal, and despite its bitesize length was impressively diverse. Stranger Fruit was a more complete record, but did see a clear template emerging for a 'standard' Zeal & Ardor song (opens with clean call-and-response singing, gradually works up to an extreme metal blast, cuts back before going hard again), one that was repeated several times and suggested that the band might quickly lose some of their appeal if they couldn't mix things up more consistently. There are only five full songs on Wake Of A Nation, but the diversity on display here offers some evidence that the project may be able to sustain its appeal for a while to come.

"Vigil" eschews the metal for the most part, instead seeing Gagneux singing soulfully whilst accompanied mainly by piano, with ebb and flow of tremolo guitars in the background. The gospel vibes to this song aren't a novelty for the project by any means, but they haven't quite been pushed to this extent on past efforts. "Tuskegee" sees the first bursts of aggression, opening with stomping riffs and vicious shrieks; it ultimately features exchanges between harsh metal and quiet choral singing, but implements them in a distinctive structure, working towards the clean hooks rather than relying on them to open proceedings. "At The Seams" leans closer structurally to what one might expect from a Zeal & Ardor song, but stands out from past efforts due to the subdued blues approach implemented vocally. This song offers solid evidence that even if the formula stays the same in terms of song structure, Gagneux is able to modify the tone and instrumental approach to maintain a feeling of freshness.

"Trust No One" starts off sounding the most familiar out of any of the tracks on Wake Of A Nation, but as it progresses, it enters a punishing doom trudge that offers feelings of malevolence seldom flirted with on previous songs. Add onto that the title track, a vocal and percussive vehicle that strips away the other instruments almost entirely to place the convoluted vocal overlaps and call-and-responses front and centre, and there is arguably as much diversity on Wake Of A Nation as there was across all of Stranger Fruit, despite being almost a third of its length. Lyrics aside, whilst I wouldn't say any of the tracks on Wake Of A Nation rank high in my list of favourite songs from this project so far, the range and competency at writing within that range here gives me optimism that we can expect plenty more quality material from Zeal & Ardor as the project progresses from being an exciting novelty into a sustainable killer act for years to come.


 



Written on 24.10.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 14   Visited by: 131 users
24.10.2020 - 20:27
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Probably wins on the political front because it's a lot more rooted in what's going on than just saying "politicians bad", or even worse, sampling the "I'm mad as hell" bit from Network.

I'm really surprised nobody thought of the cross/police stick thing before.
----
Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
Loading...
24.10.2020 - 22:58
kaiserphoenix
Written by RaduP on 24.10.2020 at 20:27

Probably wins on the political front because it's a lot more rooted in what's going on than just saying "politicians bad", or even worse, sampling the "I'm mad as hell" bit from Network.

I'm really surprised nobody thought of the cross/police stick thing before.


Yeah i think that is a really cool cover
Loading...
24.10.2020 - 23:23
Aries Rising
Written by RaduP on 24.10.2020 at 20:27

Probably wins on the political front because it's a lot more rooted in what's going on than just saying "politicians bad", or even worse, sampling the "I'm mad as hell" bit from Network.

I'm really surprised nobody thought of the cross/police stick thing before.


I don't know about all that. "I can't breathe" is a lie as much as "hands up don't shoot" was. And how are we still calling Z&A black metal. Most of the stuff is more alt rock to me than metal. I've only heard a few songs off here but the only one that sounded like BM was Tuskegee, which was a good song. Still think the band is overrated, Danzig was mixing blues and gospel with metal 30 years ago.
Loading...
24.10.2020 - 23:48
UnknownCheese
Shitty gimmick band for the Vice crowd/scene tourists. Absolutely nothing black metal about this.
Loading...
25.10.2020 - 01:19
Aries Rising
Written by UnknownCheese on 24.10.2020 at 23:48

Shitty gimmick band for the Vice crowd/scene tourists. Absolutely nothing black metal about this.


It's black metal in the same way that Deafhaven is, i.e. hipster black metal, or black metal for people who don't like or want to try and get into real black metal.
Loading...
25.10.2020 - 03:45
SoUnDs LiKe PoP
The whole reactionary "police brutality" narrative this album pushes would be a lot more impactful if statistics and reality actually backed it up.

They don't.

Anyway... I thought that this band's sophomore album had some great moments. Since then, however, all they've done is ride the gimmick and pump out a bunch of boring music. This album was no different.
----
I lift weights and listen to metal
Loading...
25.10.2020 - 07:19
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by Aries Rising on 24.10.2020 at 23:23

"I can't breathe" is a lie as much as "hands up don't shoot" was

While I've found Z&A a lot less interesting ever since Devil Is Fine myself and do (slightly) agree that it's embraced contemporary social trends much harder on a thematic level since then, this just borders on the delusional

Educating you on reality is not my job. Please do some research on the number of people in America (not merely black / POC) who have been choked to death and shot in the back by police, especially within the past 10 years, before you go shooting your mouth off with this nonsense that reeks of self serving conspiracy theory

(This thread isn't devolving into a political debate btw, so reply and quote back if you'd like but this is the first and last response you're getting out of me)
----
Check out Apothecary's Favorite Bands Playlist, brotendo. One track per band.
Loading...
25.10.2020 - 07:46
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
God, this thread is depressing so far
----
Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
Loading...
25.10.2020 - 09:04
nikarg
Mod
I quite like all the Z&A albums, although I do feel the whole idea is getting a bit stale at the moment. Musically this is underwhelming compared to Stranger Fruit and all the previous albums I think. There is no song here that instantly grips you like "A Spiritual", "Come On Down" or "Gravedigger's Chant".
Loading...
25.10.2020 - 18:25
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Regardless of the specific narratives that have their basis in fabrication or exaggeration, the overall theme of police brutality is a significant topic of discussion and one that serves as a great source of inspiration for many people in the artistic community. You don't have to be black or align yourself with movements like BLM in order for these things to affect you or be worthy of your attention and criticism, much in the same way you don't have to be a white supremacist to show your support of law enforcement.

Unfortunately for Z&A this time around, it seems the well has run dry. That usually happens when the focus is narrowed in more on the message than the music, but previous releases have proven that balance with this project is possible.
----
"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something."
Loading...
26.10.2020 - 22:14
Aries Rising
Written by Apothecary on 25.10.2020 at 07:19

Written by Aries Rising on 24.10.2020 at 23:23

"I can't breathe" is a lie as much as "hands up don't shoot" was

While I've found Z&A a lot less interesting ever since Devil Is Fine myself and do (slightly) agree that it's embraced contemporary social trends much harder on a thematic level since then, this just borders on the delusional

Educating you on reality is not my job. Please do some research on the number of people in America (not merely black / POC) who have been choked to death and shot in the back by police, especially within the past 10 years, before you go shooting your mouth off with this nonsense that reeks of self serving conspiracy theory

(This thread isn't devolving into a political debate btw, so reply and quote back if you'd like but this is the first and last response you're getting out of me)


That's not my point. The instances that coined those phrases turned out to be lies, doesn't take away from police brutality. The latest situation for example, Breonna Taylor. All people are talking about is the BLM narrative when the real issue is that no-knock raids are getting people killed and should be stopped. Maybe I should have been more clear in my original statement and for that lack of clarity, I apologize.
Loading...
26.10.2020 - 23:01
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Aries Rising on 26.10.2020 at 22:14

That's not my point. The instances that coined those phrases turned out to be lies, doesn't take away from police brutality. The latest situation for example, Breonna Taylor. All people are talking about is the BLM narrative when the real issue is that no-knock raids are getting people killed and should be stopped. Maybe I should have been more clear in my original statement and for that lack of clarity, I apologize.

You do have a point that a lot of these issues concerning police brutality aren't necessarily related to race. Most of the victims of police brutality in the USA are not black. But it's pretty clear that it disproportionately affects black people, from longer sentences for the same crime, more police shootings (regardless if they are armed or not), being more likely to be stopped-and-frisked, stopped in traffic, to get force used against them, to be arrested for the same drugs (or to have two penalties for the same drug if one of them is more used by them), to have their assets seized by police, to get wrongly convicted, to get higher bails set, and to have their generational wealth diminished. And also "some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses" to the point that the FBI is investigating the ties. Here's a nifty database of public Facebook posts by police officers. Have at it.

I know how getting hit with a "do your own research, I'm not here to educate you" can feel a bit disheartening and confrontational. I hope I was of help to ease things a bit.

Also in regards to how those instances were lies, even if George Floyd already said he couldn't breathe before he got pinned to the ground (actually before he even got to the car), something tells me it wasn't a good idea to use a "discouraged" maneuver to hold your knee on a man's neck for 8 minutes until he dies.

But yeah, the War On Drugs must be stopped, proactive policing must diminish, and the military-industrial complex must be dismantled. And that's regardless of the race of the people it affects. Especially since they're not here to protect anyone.
----
Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
Loading...
27.10.2020 - 02:39
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by Aries Rising on 26.10.2020 at 22:14

That's not my point. The instances that coined those phrases turned out to be lies, doesn't take away from police brutality. The latest situation for example, Breonna Taylor. All people are talking about is the BLM narrative when the real issue is that no-knock raids are getting people killed and should be stopped. Maybe I should have been more clear in my original statement and for that lack of clarity, I apologize.

Well I apologize for any abrasiveness on my end, then. I just see way too much denial of the facts behind real incidents of police killings/brutalizing of unarmed people regularly on social media, it's starting to make me a little more snappy towards comments that come off that way. Hope you can understand without any ill will.

I get your point about the broader issue of focusing on how police brutality is an issue that really supercedes race, but, as Radu so eloquently put it above me, I personally think that sometimes when you choose to focus on the issue from that broader perspective, you sometimes end up doing something of a disservice to the people most disproportionately affected by it who tend to bear the brunt of the aggression, which (at least in America) tend to be people of color. It's the BLM vs "All Lives Matter" argument, basically. The fact that police brutality is an issue that adversely affects people of all races and ethnicities shouldn't dismiss the fact that there's something of a discrepancy between how adversely certain ethnicities are affected by it compared to others, and vice versa. There is some balance to be maintained between the group perspective and the more narrow racial perspective, I think.

Anyway,

Gave my first listen to this tonight. I agree that at this point it's hard to even call it BM anymore, it's more of a dark, esoteric alternative rock or something, maybe a shade of Gothic here and there even. Still enjoyed though, but not nearly as much as the debut or Devil Is Fine.
----
Check out Apothecary's Favorite Bands Playlist, brotendo. One track per band.
Loading...
30.10.2020 - 20:47
tintinb
I think it's unfair to label this band as hipster black metal just because it does not follow the traditional song writing structure of "real" black metal bands. Black metal is one of the few metal genres where a lot of innovation is seen in the recent times, Z&A is a shining example in that front. This may piss off a lot of BM elitists but I personally believe this is one of the most positive directions is which metal has taken a turn and I, for one, am all for it.
Loading...

Hits total: 2541 | This month: 651