Well, it seems very appropriate that Manuel Gagneux and his Zeal & Ardor project throws down a new release in light of all of the racial tension and upheaval of 2020. Wake of a Nation comes as a stinging statement of the events surrounding the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests that engulfed much of the nation in the subsequent months. The album cover art of an upside down cross composed of police night sticks is just perfect.
For those not in the know, Zeal & Ardor was conceived as a very avant-garde metal project that attempted to fuse black metal with Slave-era Negro spirituals and field songs. Ultimately, the project was best summed up by Gagneux’s statement, “What if American slaves had embraced Satan instead of Jesus?” The combination of the two styles sounds odd on paper, but the resulting sound is captivating. You’ve got a foundation of jarring blast beats, extreme tremolo guitar picking and harsh industrial noise with spiritual and gospel inspired vocal harmonies over top. This stuff is for you more adventurous tastes in metal.
The latest EP doesn’t mince words and doesn’t pull any punches. If you’re the sort to discount the Black Lives Matter movement or believe that there’s no such thing as systematic racism in our county’s institutions or police forces, then you should probably just move on along. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ll learn something from these lyrics. As a middle aged white guy, I can’t speak as to the black experience in America. I’ve got no frame of reference. I don’t worry about being fucked with by the police when I leave my house. I never had. Hell, I’ve been flat our disrespectful to police that have pulled me over for speeding in the past. I did so without fear of repercussion. I can’t imagine what it is like to never know when a simple trip outside of one’s home could turn into a fatal encounter simply because of the basis of one’s skin color. That’s why this EP, and other forms of art like it, are important. It gives a glimpse into the experience of someone unlike me. It serves an a reminder that not everyone experiences the world in the same way that you do. You can discount this movement as championing something that is not real, but I think you do yourself and this country a disservice by doing so. These things are real regardless of whether you believe in them or not. These voices are important. This is a collection of songs that is worthy of your time.
4.5 flip flops out of 5