When Zeal & Ardor released Devil Is Fine in 2016, the Swiss-American act — then just frontman Manuel Gagneux — were praised for their novel and often chilling combination of black metal and slave spirituals. But America’s racial identity has changed significantly in the last four years, most notably by the riots and protests following the steady stream of unarmed black people being executed by the police without official consequence. Now, Zeal & Ardor have released two singles from their upcoming new EP, and they — as well as the album’s cover — are absolutely heartbreaking.
The new EP is titled Wake of a Nation, obviously referencing the 1915 KKK propaganda film Birth of a Nation (and the fact that said movie was a massive success in its time, helping pave the way for America’s heroic portrayal of the racist south). The album’s cover art continues the band’s tradition of depicting satanic imagery with an American twist: an inverted cross made of police nightsticks. It’s pretty obvious who the Devil is in this scenario.
In the Facebook post announcing the EP, Zeal & Ardor wrote:
The first of the two new singles from Wake of a Nation, “I Can’t Breathe,” is an ominous interlude made up of samples from protests, news reports, and cellphone footage of black Americans being killed, all laid over an ominously bluesy instrumental track. But it’s on the on “Vigil” where Gagneux really hits home. The track opens with dulcet piano and lyrics that are without convenient interpretation — “I can’t breathe, it’s a cellphone, please don’t shoot/I need to be home, I’m on my knees” — before swelling into a massive chorus that shakes the rafters with its tragedy.
Listen to Zeal & Ardor’s beautiful if absolutely crushing new singles below:
Zeal & Ardor’s Wake of a Nation comes out October 23, and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin