Sweet Release: Zeal & Ardor – Devil Is Fine (2/24)

Bands have been inventing new, creative recipes for black metal for years now; we’ve now an impressive array of diverse cream filling flavors in our devil’s food cake. While the variety is refreshing, some flavors have become championed by the internet elite, while others are relegated to gas station desperation. Nevertheless, I’m always, always pleased to hear any attempt to spice up Grandma’s kvlt-ass formula, and Zeal & Ardor is poised to be the next big thing.

Ignoring the hype (and occasional hyperbole) already surrounding this release, I imagine Devil Is Fine really will sound like nothing the metal community has ever heard before. Comboing off on African slave chants and black metal is pretty daring — the kind of off-the-wall union that demands passion and authenticity to pull off.

And I’m a little worried.

Album art for Devil Is Fine by Zeal & Ardor.

No, not that the artist’s grand vision won’t connect with me. I’ve already heard several songs, both from the upcoming Devil Is Fine and a few select tracks from their SoundCloud, and the sound Zeal & Ardor achieves is nothing short of remarkable. In the title track, band mastermind Manuel Gagneux’s soulful singing voice drifts hauntingly across a backdrop of clanking chains and muffled tremolo guitars. On “Children’s Summon,” his screams rattle with the pain of the Old South against hypnotic, melodious synths and rapid-fire blast beats.

But is the song any good?

I’ve eaten up the offerings presented to me, but they ultimately left me feeling unfulfilled. The influences — or ingredients, to continue the analogy — are so expertly blended, but only come across as the very best standout pieces of songs. They feel like inspired ideas for experimental black metal of the highest caliber that have, tragically, not yet fully formed the ideal shape and consistency that are its due. The sound and concept are so fresh I’m willing to forgive quite a bit, but… we’ll see.

But who am I to say what’s good or not? Why allow experimentation with influences but not song composition? Black metal will always end up doing its own thing, so regardless of my shithead opinions I think Devil Is Fine will be one of the year’s most talked-about releases. Certainly it will be one of the most unique. My mouth is watering in anticipation for it, but whether the whole thing satisfies as much as the smaller samples remains to be seen.

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