Zeal and Ardor – Devil Is Fine

I don’t even know what to make of this. But I stand corrected. In my last post, I suggested rock music (though still occasionally very good) didn’t really have anything new to say. I was wrong. Take “Come on Down”, a track by Zeal and Ardor, which seems to pretty much be a gentleman by the name of Manuel Gagneux: playtime music box melodies in battle against black metal riffs, before an amnesty is called, and the chimes and axes actually duet, matching melodies as we all hold hands and sing along.

Gagneux is Swiss. Given that the only other Swiss metal supremo I know of  – Tom G. Warrior – is equally forward thinking, it makes sense that this should be mind-bendingly good. Props to the excellent Kim Kelly, whose article in Noisey made me first aware of this band. But what a shame on me that I took so long to put that reading into action. I have been pondering what could be my album of the year for 2017. Many albums have struck me as good, but literally none stood out as a proper contender. 
On my first listen, admittedly, Devil Is Fine is striking me just so: right in and between the ears. “What Is a Killer Like You Gonna Do Here” is satisfyingly Nick Cave “Red Right Hand” or Tom Waits in its mock-menacing gruff shuffling. There are three brief numbered “Sacrilegium” tracks, respectively thick-synthy, music boxy (very reminiscent of “Frosti” from Björk’s best album Vespertine), and a bit Plone. Remember Plone? No? Well they were good. Very melodic Warp Records chaps.

But listen to “Blood in the River“: chain gang harmonising about how “a good lord is a dark one… the one that brings the fire”, before the hyperspeed black metal guitar howl and blast beats rampage into the mix.

Remember a few years ago, when the music hipsters who aren’t into metal got into Deafheaven as their token metal band because they sounded like an emo band playing black metal, and… didn’t really do anything different with it? Zeal and Ardor is what happens when you do something different with black metal, to a degree I’ve not heard since the glory days of Ulver and Arcturus. It lacks the sense of utter evil that you get in a Deathspell Omega album, say, but that in itself is rather refreshing. Very pleased with this; let’s see what multiple listens do for me.

P.S. I know this was technically 2016, but I’m counting it as 2017. Pretty sure that’s what it says on my CD. I’m behind the times, but what’s new?

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