Zeal and Ardor @ o2 Institute, 4th December 2018

Upon entering the O2 Institute 2 on Tuesday evening, it was quite surprising to see screens already in action for the support band of the evening. However, upon Blackpool’s Blanket taking to the stage it was clear that the visual aspect is as much a part of the performance as the music. The visuals throughout the band’s set complemented the cinematic and expansive sound that the band created on stage, in their third show in the city.

The reason that everyone was packed into the venue on Tuesday evening however was for the arrival of Zeal & Ardor into the second city. Starting as a solo project for Manuel Gagneux combining negro spirituals with black metal, the project has evolved over two records into a full band live effort.

In terms of the project in the live environment, the biggest difference was how big the whole thing sounded with full instrumentation outside of the solo project that’s put onto record. The opening trio of ‘Sacrilegium I’, ‘In Ashes’ and ‘Servants’ certainly announced the band’s entrance in the most abrupt way.

Also perhaps surprising was how good Manuel’s voice is, and this is what allows the project to be taken extremely seriously and never falling into a novelty.

There were perhaps moments within the evening’s set that the whole thing becomes a little formulaic in terms of song structure, as on record, however the mysterious and engaging stage presence of the band with two imposing looking backing vocalists did well to keep the show moving.

In a bigger setting you could imagine the show taking a much more dramatic and visual dynamic, however to be able to keep a crowd engaged purely on the strength of the music is clearly due credit.

Ending the set with ‘Gravediggers Chant’, the band returned to the stage to perform arguably their biggest hit ‘Devil Is Fine’ as well as ‘We Can’t Be Found’ before ending on ‘Baphomet’.

It will be interesting to follow the band’s career from this point onwards, to see whether the combination of genres allows for much more in the way of sonical creativity or whether it’s time for new musical avenues to be explored. But from the talent on stage it’s clear that there wouldn’t be much that the band couldn’t produce with both integrity and believability

Setlist:

Sacrilegium I

In Ashes

Servants

Come on Down

Row Row

Blood in the River

You Ain’t Coming Back

Stranger Fruit

Fire of Motion

Ship on Fire

Waste

Don’t You Dare

Gravedigger’s Chant
Encore:

We Can’t Be Found

Devil is Fine

Baphomet

 

Reviewer: Dan Earl

 

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