It's a Tuesday night at the start of December, in the back streets of Digbeth where one of my 'Bands of 2018' are readying to take the stage. After what is a pretty amazing year, it was time for Zeal & Ardor to bring their unique mind blowing sound to Birmingham.
Sadly, due to tech difficulties*, we were unable to catch the supporting act for the show. However upon arriving within the venue, the room was already full of energy and chatter, which is always a good sign.
After catching Zeal & Ardor at Download this year and also getting my hands on their new album 'Stranger Fruit', this was not a gig I was going to miss. With what I can only call a 'Black and Blues Metal' sound that can't be found anywhere else, especially with the increased fusion within their latest album and a stage presence that can be compared to 'Ghost' and 'Avatar', albeit minus the theatricals, it was set to be a treat.
As the lights drop, the black clad ensemble join onto the stage as the stage waves with dark colours and flashes of light. The figure of Manuel Gagneux stands central in the stage, somehow commanding the audience without a word. We trip into the setlist with 'Sacrilegium I' from the first album and burn straight into 'In Ashes' as a follow up.
It's unreal how much energy erupts from the room during the set. Every single member of the crowd was moving and watching every motion on the stage. The technical brilliance of Z&A shines through, from the outstanding ability of each member, even in live performances, to the perfect balance between the harmonies as the vocals overlay. It's not something that gets said a lot, but I somehow felt the sound from the live show was beating that from the albums.
As a someone who marvels at technical set ups in live music, it was a treat to see how the band work around the distinct stylings they bring out in their albums. With a dual mic set up to help really nail the clean vocals and the harsh tones, Manuel is a natural to singing live.
The night finishes with 'the hits', which for a band that has two albums, is impressive. A pure highlight for me comes from 'Devil is Fine' as the crowd bellows out the opening and, I could be wrong, but I spot a sly smile coming from the front man. I had high hopes for this show, like really high expectations. They were smashed.
Sadly their last UK date of 2018 is tonight (the 6th, in Glasgow. And it's Sold Out), so I can't tell you to grab a ticket for this UK tour. But I can tell you to do what you can to catch them next time they are close. This is a band that have big things in their sights, a sound that is new, but absolutely jaw dropping and a personality that has the ability to take the Metal world and bring it to its knees. Zeal and Ardor are your next big thing, I would bet my word on it.
It's not even a second thought to put this down as a full score and easy shot for best show of the year. 10/10.
*Said tech difficulties are also the reason this review is photo-less. As Editor, I do apologise, my camera decided that it did not wish to function in the evening. I seriously looked at potentially trying to make it up to Glasgow this evening and hoping I could shoot them tonight, but sadly, last minute flights aren't as cheap as I thought they would be.