ZEAL & ARDOR (US/CH)
ZEAL & ARDOR
Picture the scene: a late summer evening, crickets sing their song, your bare feet firmly planted in the soil, the poplars gently sway in the wind, and the stench nearly knocks you out cold.
Creative firebrand Manuel Gagneux returns with a brand new Zeal & Ardor single. Gravedigger's Chant serves as an omen of what's to come from his forthcoming second Zeal & Ardor album, Stranger Fruit. With its haunting refrain of "bring the dead body down", Gravedigger's Chant takes listeners on someone's final journey. Manuel intones, "The gravedigger's chant is the song sung by the people who lay your body to rest. These people don't care where you were, but they know what you did and who loved you. All they know is what lies before them. So they sing this song, since you can no longer breathe a note."
Mixing blues, gospel, and soul with harsher music has opened up a world of possibilities for Gagneux. Previously creating as a one man solo effort, the immense interest and critical acclaim Zeal & Ardor attracted upon release of debut album Devil Is Fine, has led to the project becoming a fully-fledged, internationally-touring band. After months hidden away, crafting the new songs for Stranger Fruit, Gagneux entered the studio with producer Zebo Adam and mixer Kurt Ballou (Converge, Kvelertak, Nails). While the finished sound is larger and heavier, it is still unmistakably Zeal & Ardor.
The diverse yet cohesive nature of the sixteen tracks on Stranger Fruit is designed to encourage the listener to dig a little deeper and find their own meaning in its words. In contrast to first LP Devil Is Fine, these songs are deliberately intended to play off each other both lyrically and musically.
While the record seethes with a justifiable rage, its wider-reaching aim is to unify, not divide, and to inspire action, not inertia. Elements of a bleak melancholy are tempered by hope. Superficially, the album tells small isolated stories, but there are also references to the Goetia, Yoruba, and obscure occult literature and history within.