Zeal & Ardor - ‘Stranger Fruit’ Album Review

A little over a month ago I was unfamiliar with Zeal & Ardor. But after hearing the single ‘Gravediggers Chant’ I quickly became obsessed with the band and dug as deep as I could to hear and find out everything about Manuel Gagneux and his music. I was hooked and after having the first album Devil Is Fine on constant repeat for a couple of weeks I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the follow up Stranger Fruit. Stranger Fruit takes the journey of Devil Is Fine and pushes it further with uplifting melodies, ambient darkness and pure unapologetic noise, all beautifully blended into something that is somewhat familiar but its own beast at the same time. Before pushing play I thought I was prepared for what I was about to hear but as it turned out I sure as hell wasn’t. This album challenged me and moved me emotionally in ways that a record hasn’t done in a very long time and hit me hard especially on the second listen. Stranger Fruit can be subtle at times and draw you in with its quiet Radiohead-esque dreamscape moments (Intro, The Hermit, The Fool) while at other times it can completely throw you off the path you think you are on. Tracks like Row Row and We Can’t Be Found will have you stomping your feet and clapping, then before you know it turns on itself and knocks you back with blast beats, groove and brutality. This record has so much heart and soul that you feel like you are sharing in Manuel Gagneux’s pain, sorrow and anger that he expresses in his voice. Songs like You Ain’t Coming Back and Built On Ashes hit me the hardest, there is so much honesty and raw emotion in these tracks that you feel it right down to your core. Zeal & Ardor can be difficult to describe as it is so many things at once. The closet thing it reminds me of is Jeff Buckley’s Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk. The way Buckley was trying to experiment with his own music and push it to places that not only challenged himself but the listener as well was, in my opinion revolutionary. But due to sadly passing away before completing it we never really knew how far it would go. This is where Zeal & Ardor succeeds and picks up where those ideas left off but with a more musical focus. And while there are elements and influences from different genres throughout Stranger Fruit, it’s the way they are carefully blended that make it important in what could be a significant turning point for music in years to come. I think it’s safe to say that this record is my favorite of the year so far and will be hard to beat as my number one. Pick this album up as soon as it is released and pay very close attention to what Zeal & Ardor do next, I feel they are on the forefront of something big that is about to happen.

Zeal & Ardor - Stranger Fruit will be released June 8.

ZEAL & ARDOR - Built On Ashes (Official Audio)

ZEAL & ARDOR - Waste (Official Audio)

ZEAL & ARDOR - Gravedigger's Chant (Official Video)

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