Zeal and Ardor - Zeal and Ardor (2022)Release ID: 34160
This is my third attempt at a Zeal & Ardor album and honestly I’m surprised I haven’t found them remotely enjoyable. I’ve always seen myself as respecting them from a distance in how they blend blues rock and spiritual with avant-garde black metal, but never understanding the execution; it’s very hit or miss.
So for this new self-titled album, Zeal & Ardor have further stepped outside the box by bringing in more electronics that coexist within an industrial framework, while the cleanliness of some of this records hardest hitting sections are right out of the Meshuggah playbook of metalcore/djent. And, one again, this mish-mash of timbres and styles could work together so much better than they sound here.
Let’s get this out of the way fast: the metalcore elements suck. The prim and proper cutoffs of “Death to the Holy” and “Erase” just do not add up and weigh the entire track down. Not helped at all by a full helping of bass drum that swamps out everything. When this band is able to show off some black metal chops with these sprawling instrumentals, it brings the tunes as well as the vocals to life on “Emersion” and “Götterdämmerung”. The Alice In Chains inspired “Church Burns” was a welcome surprise, if only for it’s catchy vocal melody, and “Golden Liar” has a genuine simmer to it that grows and builds, but never eclipses and reveals its big climax, a show of restraint that this album has quite an issue with showing.
Honestly, I was expecting a little bit more focus on the spirituals that previous albums have. However this time they seem to play second fiddle to all of the metal escapades. Most of the time they feel out of place and not incorporated very well into their respective tracks, almost as if they were meant to be dramatic interludes before the next breakdown hits. In the end, the self-titled Zeal & Ardor album is kind of a mess.