Live Review : Zeal & Ardor @ Gorilla, Manchester on December 5th 2018

The question of where Metal goes next is something, we fans debate frequently as there are very few genre's left that Metal hasn't sidled up to and fluttered it's eyelashes at. Zeal & Ardor have taken a very unique direction by looking for inspiration from the musical cornerstones that shaped the Blues, namely Gospel and Afro-spiritual. By combing the raw power of Black Metal with these two equally earthy and guttural influences they have managed to create something that sounds completely and utterly unique. 

They have very much been a word of mouth sensation and you can tell many gathered here this evening inside the tiny sweaty metallic box that is Gorilla have been dragged along by friends evangelical about this band. They have stumbled upon the first two records (‘Devil is Kind’ and ‘Stranger Fruit’) or had alternatively had caught the stunning performance of at this year's Download Festival. Understandably the audience response is initially friendly and polite but soon becomes rapturous and worshipful as we all get swept up in the sheer magnificence of what we are watching, as tonight Zeal & Ardor are simply utterly stunning. 

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It as all about the power and atmospherics and visually they are a forbidding sight as their principal architect Manuel Gagneux spends his entire time dead stage centre like some possessed ringmaster. He is flanked on each side by two utterly incredible vocalists that may well be white, young and Swiss, but have obviously made some sort of pact with Satan as they both possess voices that should belong to aged Afro-American Blues singers.  Completing the line on either side is respectively a be-hooded guitarist and be-hooded bassist and they all stay in that exact configuration for the entire seventy-five minute performance. It may sound staid, stagnant and a little dull, but I can tell you that it is one of the most vital and energetic performances I have seen in a good long while. The entire elongated frontline throw themselves into each and every track with such passion and conviction that they become a blur of limbs, hair and instruments. Each song is delivered with burning searing primordial power as if they are be being willed into being from somewhere deep in the centre of the earth. 

The masterstroke here is that Gospel, Afro-spirtual and Black Metal are all gritty earthy musical forms full of pain and isolation, music of the dis-possessed and dis-franchised. Splicing them together may sound hopocraphial on paper but tonight you don't see the join as the three soulful and rich voices of Manuel's, Denis and Marc merge in with planet crunchingly powerful black metal. This is easily the most exciting band currently operating within our world and the orgasmic reaction from the audience at the end shows that those in attendance realise they have witnessed something truly special.

Words by Stewart Lucas