Zeal and Ardor + Schammasch
@Village Underground, London
4th June 2018
Review by Gabor Csete
Photography by Ryan Whitwell / Shotison
Zeal and Ardor’s gig was something I was really interested in – especially after seeing them last year. First of all, here’s some back information about the band for the people who are totally unfamiliar with them: Zeal and Ardor was started by Manuel Gagneux a few years ago. The Swiss-American musician uploaded his album ‘Devil Is Fine’ onto YouTube and it became a sensation (I guess bigger than Gagneux ever thought it will be) in no time. Zeal and Ardor then released its first album physically as well; Gagneux recreated a band from his friends and went on tour last year. The band toured over Europe where they had many sold out shows (just like the one in The Underworld) and supported bands like Prophets Of Rage. Not bad for a first tour, right?!
Schammasch were supporting tonight. The Basel based band are rather mysterious, walking onto the stage with a cloaked frontman and strong backlighting making difficult to see their faces.
At the times the lighting eased up to get a glimpse of some identity and we got glimpses of the front man’s completely black makeup on his face and hands. The look suited the dark and often macabre tone of the music very well.
The slow black metal had a sinister tone at times. It seemed some in the crowd were unsure how to take it at first, but it wasn’t long until the rhythm settled and headbanging ensued. A good warm up for Zeal and Ardor.
This year London was the fourth gig on Zeal and Ardor’s tour and the band chose a bigger venue this time. Village Underground was still sold out. There was a massive queue outside the venue as the security searched everybody one by one.
And whilst it’s really annoying to stand outside the venue for more than 20 minutes it was enough time to take a look at the audience interested in the band that night: it was one of the most diverse crowds I’ve ever seen. Which is not a total suprise given that Zeal and Ardor’s music is a mixture of genres.
Before Zeal and Ardor started, their logo in the background was already visible and it just looked amazing in front of the plain brick wall. ‘Sacrilegium I’ started to play as an intro, and as soon as it was finished the band took over the stage while the audience cheered loudly.
The Swiss band started with ‘In Ashes’ and the crowd started to sing. A year ago there were people who’d heard about Zeal and Ardor but had never listened to them; this year everyone knew why they were there.
During the first song the band had hoods on them which was a bit boring to be honest, but if you are playing black metal or music influenced by that, this is part of the deal, I guess…
The sound was simply perfect, and the lights and the size of the building made the concert more phenomenal and seance like.
Zeal and Ardor played all their songs in a professional way, and they kept the old and new songs in good balance (some of the songs are different live).
In one year the band has grown organically and they’ve put their whole effort on a different level. Without a doubt they were amazing last year. This year they were even better.
Frontman and mastermind Manuel didn’t talk a lot to the audience. When he did, he asked how the crowd were feeling, and before the title song of the new album he made sure we all knew that ‘Strange Fruit’ was coming out this Friday (8th of June).
The band finished their set with ‘Baphomet’ and left the stage during ‘Sacrilegium III’. The audience couldn’t stop cheering. First of all because it was a great gig. Secondly, after 20 fantastic songs they were still hungry – whether one had seen Zeal and Ardor before or not noone can imagine a gig without ‘Devil Is Fine’.
With the lead of Manuel, the band was back on stage for the encore. They played three more songs, with one being the aforementioned anthem, and as a result of the singing audience it really felt like “a musical setting of a religious text to be sung by a choir during a church service”.
As people left the venue, most of them went to the merch table once more to buy something to save the memory of an uplifting gig (I have to mention that the wide range of merch was well priced – sadly it’s rare nowadays).
It was probably one of Manuel Gagneux’s best life decisions to make a professional band out of Zeal and Ardor and not just to keep it as hobby project. This kind of so called avant-garde metal is the future of the genre, as more and more people gets gravitated to music which is not just another copy of something we’ve all heard before. And if Zeal and Ardor continues its tendency to grow, then soon they’ll play in much bigger venues. All sold out, of course.