Devil IS Fine
You'll often find us lauding over albums here at Room Thirteen which present a wide array of crossover styles and sounds but you'd be seriously hard pressed to find anything quite like Zeal & Ardor. This is a one-man project borne out of the mind of Manuel Gagneux. You'll be sitting there as this album comes to a close and be in an absolute sensory overload as you try and register the fact that you've been exposed to everything from Death Metal blastbeats to Post-Black Metal to Blues to Gospel to Electronica AND it was all recorded by one person. On paper this sounds like an absolute mess, but it comes together in such a manner it is simply beautiful to the ear. A first spin of this will hit you harder than the Italian thunderbolt, repeat listens will simply allow your love for this band/project to blossom.
With Zeal & Ardor, what is most impressive is the fact that this isn't an album produced which takes the styles and genres listed above and assigned them to a track each. You look at a song like Blood In The River, it opens with a real Southern Blues feel before growing in to a far more complex and generally terrifying sound. Out of nowhere this enormous Industrial and Post Black Metal sound flows underneath these incredibly soulful vocals. It works tremendously well. The track immediately following this, What Is A Killer Like You Gonna Do Here?, channels a bit of Nick Cave at his best. Mind-fuck or what?
This collection of songs actually came out last year to relatively low fanfare. As more people began to listen and the natural buzz increased in size it ended up getting picked up and in an effort to give it the recognition it absolutely deserves has ended up being re-packaged and re-released. Not many will get this second try but there is no doubt we'll be thankful that it did. As far as interesting and challenging music is concerned, this is as good as it gets.
Even through the lyrics alone, you are left hanging on Manuel's every word as he rattles through themes not limited to African-American slavery, Satanism, rituals and the evil enclosed in Christianity. For a lot of the satanic, Black Metal, elements in the lyrics you wouldn't even bat an eyelid with your standard vocalist from that scene screaming it in your face, but Manuel has managed to make it sound about ten times more evil and terrifying than any of them could ever hope to achieve.
All in all then, with Zeal & Ardor's Devil is Fine we've got an absolute classic on our hands. This is an artist who isn't afraid in the slightest of pushing the boundaries to generate content which is testing, original and interesting. This music doesn't necessarily fit in any kind of category and going forward that'll leave Zeal & Ardor frankly unrestricted - Devil Is Fine was ultimately an experiment for Manuel Gagneux, who knows where this can be taken going forward. Never mind one of the albums of the year, this is one of the albums of the decade.