Swiss act Zeal & Ardor was the bowel-churning highlight of Eurosonic 2018 – an avant-garde metal project that just might cross over this year, going by the justified hype from outside the regular metal channels.
The band, led by multi-instrumentalist Manuel Gagneux, is a real one-off conceit – a hellfire blaze of chain gang chants, slave spirituals, black metal riffs and rattling handcuff samples. Gagneux formed Zeal & Ardor as an up yours to a racist troll on 4Chan who asked him to mix “N***er music and black metal” as part of a song challenge, and it’s now overtaken his experimental pop project Birdmask.
There’s no blast beats or black metal swarm guitars on Gravedigger’s Chant – instead it’s a fire and brimstone swampy blues dirge, hanging on a simple battered piano motif, widescreen horror discord and cavernous funeral march drums.
Gagneux says: “The gravedigger’s chant is the song sung by the people who lay your body to rest. These people don’t care where you were, but they know what you did and who loved you. All they know is what lies before them. So they sing this song, since you can no longer breathe a note.”
As Gagneux – along with a gospel chorus – chants lines like “Wash the dead man’s clothes in the creek now, child/Wash the clothes till the creek turn red”, the video places the song in a mucky woodland horror setting, with crucifixion imagery, nooses, axes, gunfights, bodies being dragged and some diabolical psychic sinfulness.
Gravedigger’s Chant is taken from the upcoming album Stranger Fruit – the follow-up to last year’s stunning debut Devil Is Fine. Stranger Fruit is out on June 8, and you can guess the themes by the tracklisting below:
02. “Gravedigger’s Chant”
04. “Don’t You Dare”
05. “Fire Of Motion”
06. “The Hermit”
07. “Row Row”
08. “Ship On Fire”
10. “You Ain’t Coming Back”
11. “The Fool”
12. “We Can’t Be Found”
13. “Stranger Fruit”
16. “Built On Ashes”