It was starting to look like 2017 was going to be a slow year for metal music with notable releases few and far between. The past month however has started to turn the tide. Mastodon can consider themselves unlucky that their Emperor of Sand album hasn’t claimed this month’s title but not even they have ever produced anything quite as mind-fuckingly original as Devil is Fine by Zeal and Ardor.
The brainchild of Manuel Gagneux, who was struggling for inspiration one day and asked members of Internet forum 4chan to give him two styles of music to attempt to blend. Black metal and “Nigger music” were his charming replies. The idea stuck in his head and form the basis of Zeal and Ardor’s bizarre and astonishing music.
The concept of the album is that African slaves rejected the religion forced upon them by missionaries and their slave masters and instead turned to satanism, which only slightly prepares you for what you’re about to hear. Musically the vocals are largely based on African slave chants while a swirl of extreme metal guitars and noisy electronica whip up a frenzy behind them. It sounds like it should be awful…but it’s not. It’s glorious.
Metal – despite the puritanical streak in some fans – is a surprisingly malleable style of music which has incorporated various other genres into it successfully over the years. But this is something unique, new and hugely rewarding. Somehow on songs like Come On Down and Blood in the River it manages to be both catchy and complex. Veering wildly from lacerating guitar to music box melodies to chain gang chants without ever sounding forced or foolish is quite a trick to pull off and Devil is Fine manages it without fail.
What started of as a whim has developed into one of the most exciting releases for a long time, words truly cannot do it justice. Whether the concept and style can last over repeated albums is still to be seen but for now sit back and embrace the madness, it’s a hell of a ride.