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Zeal & Ardor - Devil Is Fine

Label: MVKA
Format: CD Download
Released: 2017
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 9/10

Boy, the critics are going to go crazy for this one - - and for good reason. I'll be adding my parcel of praise too, to what I expect to be an outpouring of critical admiration. But what about everyone else? Self-important journalists are going to love it, but will you? Answer: maybe. If you appreciate all of the disparate, unlikely ingredients Manuel Gagneux has swirled together in this pot, then you'll probably like the whole stew. The project name: Zeal & Ardor. The album: "Devil Is Fine." The sound draws primarily from chain gang chants, anachronistically-named Negro Spirituals, Death Metal, abrasive Folk, a la Tom Waits, and tinkling instrumental piano, a la Phillip Glass or the Ghosts project from nine inch nails. The latter sound is featured primarily on the 3 Sacrilegium tracks, which are spaced out as interludes, making you feel like you've taken a break from splitting rocks to go exploring in Hyrule. Being unique and different is enough to cause a stir in this era of everything-sounds-like-something else, but that alone isn't enough. Zeal & Ardor gets my high recommendation for being not only challenging, interesting, and fresh, but also for being damn good. Gagneux constructs with raw intelligence and wisdom, focused not just on originality, but also on songcraft. My only complaint is the drum programming. In places, these tracks sound like they were hastily assembled in Audacity.


"Blood in the River," the best track on the album, is stuck in my head right now as I write this. Not hooked like "Call Me Maybe;" but caught in the best way. Don't miss Zeal & Ardor.


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