Experimental, Fusion, Screaming vocals
""Stranger Fruit" is a brilliant, demanding and ingenious avant-garde album that nobody expected."
NEWF (01.06.2018)  
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One evening in 1939, Billie Holiday sings about the infamy of the lynching of black Americans in the southern states and the nightclub audience freezes, instinctively understanding that 'Strange Fruit' is much more than just a song and that the great lady of jazz has just, through this mournful poem, paved the way for the protest song of black Americans against racism and oppression.

This resistance of the people to oppression is the main theme of the Zeal & Ardor project whose success of the first album "Devil Is Fine" surprised first of all its creator himself, Manuel Gagneux. Because if the improbable mixture of black metal and negro sprirituals was at the beginning a bet born from a challenge thrown to the multi-instrumentalist by Internet users, the extent of the phenomenon gained gradually many listeners fond of avant-garde metal. And in fact, by calling this second album "Stranger Fruit", Manuel Gagneux, in addition to paying homage to Billie Holiday, gives Zeal & Ardor the artistic ambition and the coherence that were missing from the first opus.

Built like the soundtrack of a demonic movie, the opus multiplies references to death and loss (the processive and bewitching 'Gravedigger's Chant'), to voodoo and Yoruba ('Stranger Fruit') and to occult practices ('Solve' and 'Coagula' referring to the formula of alchemists). In this sense, "Stranger Fruit" is indeed a black metal album. The walls of guitar and the screamed vocals of 'Servants' and 'Don't You Dare' as well as the blast beats of 'Waste' are typical of the style. But all the talent of Zeal & Ardor is to mix them with soul music (the magnificent 'Row Row' and 'Built On Ashes'), gospel ('You Ain't Coming Back'), blues ('We Can't Be Found') and even Gregorian chants ('Ship On Fire') to underline their mysticism.

Thus, as you listen to it, the dark and anguishing universe of Zeal & Ardor becomes strangely obsessive. First because Manuel Gagneux allows himself short ambient and atmospheric instrumental breaths that often refer to the work of Brian Eno ('The Hermit', 'The Fool') and that reinforce the cinematographic dimension of the opus. Then because the musician has done a real precision work on the guitar riffs, exploiting their melodic ('Servants', 'Don't You Dare'), rhythmic ('We Can't Be Found') and dissonant ('Row Row') potential. Finally because the artist knows how to marry the opposites like nobody else, always on the tightrope between hope and anger, softness and brutality.

"Stranger Fruit" is a brilliant, demanding and ingenious avant-garde album that nobody expected. It is also an act of resistance to the obscurantism of which it uses the references to show its absurdity. Certainly we are no longer in 1939. Times have changed and indignation has become selective." Stranger Fruit" will probably not have the same impact as Billy Holiday's "Strange Fruit". But Zeal & Ardor is at least here to remind us that many battles of the past are still to be fought and they do it with talent and humility by offering us this strange and unique fruit.

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01. Intro
02. Gravedigger's Chant
03. Servants
04. Don't You Dare
05. Fire Of Motion
06. The Hermit
07. Row Row
08. Ship On Fire
09. Waste
10. You Ain't Coming Back
11. The Fool
12. We Can't Be Found
13. Stranger Fruit
14. Solve
15. Coagula
16. Built On Ashes

Manuel Gagneux: Chant / Guitares / Basse / Claviers
Marco Von Allmen: Batterie
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