Zeal & Ardor // Heriot // Live Review // The Trinity Centre // Bristol
The Trinity Centre in the heart of Bristol is bustling for a Tuesday night.This cherub of a venue is also hosting an evening for one of the metal scene’s most experimental, multi-genre bands; Zeal & Ardor.
With the doors due to open at 7.30 pm, the car park is already full and a queue lines the perimeter of the building an hour beforehand on this cold and windy autumnal night.
Now, most who are aware of the popularity and sound that Zeal & Ardor produce, along with support band Heriot; the Trinity Centre isn’t the kind of venue you’d imagine holding such a gig.This former church is a treasured community asset set in the centre of a multi-cultural part of Bristol. But that certainly hadn’t put anyone off.Once those doors were open, punters were chomping at the bit to get to the merch stand, then purchase their first beer of the night before whipping out their phones to get shot of the almighty Zeal & Ardor banner draped across the back of the stage.
It was hard to imagine how on earth all of those attending tonight’s gig was ever going to get into the Trinity Centre, let alone move or ‘mosh’.It took some time but once you found your spot, you weren’t going to be moving any time soon. Every inch of the place was filled with what was going to be one of the most mental nights out in Bristol.
The stage was prepped ready with two drum kits set up in tandem and the obligatory minimal lighting.Smoke had already started to lace the stage as British metallic-hardcore band Heriot marched out and took their places.
No intro was needed with this four-piece outfit as they charred the eardrums of the crowd with their defiantly crushing and deadly bass lines and searing vocals.
Vocalist and bassist Jake Packer had a few words after their first track to thank everyone for coming out to watch them and that they’re all ‘sniffling’ with a cold; not that you’d notice with the thick and dastardly tone they executed through the PA and the backlit stage that rendered them as four menacing figures that trundled through vociferous, sludgy riffs and torturous white noise.
Drummer Julian Gage made a stand intermittently as he glared at the crowd whilst guitarist Debbie Gough throws in her gnarly growls, wielding her guitar like a weapon.
They got through their half-hour set like bats outta hell, leaving the crowd frothing at the mouth with excitement and gasping for breath. Heriot sure has cooked up a storm tonight and are undeniably a force to be reckoned with.
As the techs hit the stage to make way for Zeal & Ardor, the crowd hardly budged.No one wanted to lose their space no matter what; for a drink or to even take a leak. All you could see looking back at the crowd was an array of pale faces floating on the surface of a darkened ocean, with the odd glimpse of a ‘Meshuggah’ or ‘Svalbard’ t-shirt. They were waiting…..with bated breath.
Swiss-American Manuel Gagneaux’s ‘dual mic’ was set up centre stage first and foremost as the rest of the band’s gear followed. But tonight there were two other mic stands missing adding some speculation between fans at the front.
Set lists were taped to the stage floor accompanied by neatly folded towels as hooded band members walked on to cheers; Gagneaux, the final member receiving the loudest, understandably. As they dropped their hoods, their set launched straight into the first track ‘Church Burns’, taken from their self-titled album.For anyone who has never witnessed the intricate and innovative sound of Zeal & Ardor, this track would unequivocally brandish one’s mind for what is to follow.
Gagneaux then took the opportunity to welcome the crowd and explain that two of the members were missing due to them being ‘fucked up’; well, not really ‘fucked up’, just ill. He then stated that they planned on going ahead so that there was still a show – fortunately for many, many fans. And of course, through the power of technology, backing vocals were still provided in pre-recorded state.No harm done.
Tracks such as ‘Gotterdammerung’ and ‘Run’ allowed Gagneaux to share his alter-ego vocals on his second mic joined by enough tumultuous lighting to give anyone convulsions. Guitarists Tiziano Volante and Lukas Kurmann rampantly tore across the stage like tornados, infusing the smoke and light into a deadly whirlwind.But Gagneaux’s feet remained firmly planted throughout the set to unleash the most eclectic ensemble of vocals and remained the focal point throughout the set, minus backing singers Denis Wagner and Marc Obrist.
‘We Can’t be Found’ took the set to yet another level. The track’s prominent black metal sound and hellish yells, to the band’s notorious African-American spirituals combined with an industrial twist, produced an output that is totally indescribable. A trait the band have become accustom to.
The track ‘Erase’ is yet another that has a conflicting and contrasting tone. From the softly spoken lyrics and melodic acoustic guitar to vocals that sound as if Gagneaux has been possessed by a malevolent spirit, backed by behemoth drumbeats.
An hour into the set and many fans had their hands in the air trying to capture it all on their phones.The air in the room by this time was damp and no one showed any signs of movement, mesmerised by the sheer power put before them. The band ploughed on through their colossal set regardless of the heat, until it was finally time for a bit of a breather and much needed refreshment.
To end the set was ‘Baphomet’; another track that reflects what Zeal & Ardor are all about. That haunting ‘spirituals’ vibe accompanied by another treacherous drumbeat and guitar riff – there’s no other sound out there like it. But this distinctive ‘genre’ is what has made them stand out from the crowd and totally unique. It was Manuel Gagneaux’s mission to create a genre that was experimental and it’s certainly paid off with a fanbase just as diverse.
The creation of Zeal & Ardor had been formed from the question “what if American slaves had embraced Satan instead of Jesus?”, according to Gagneaux.If Satan was present on this dark and dingy evening, you could be sure he’d have been having one a hell of a good time, just like tonights punters.
So, going back to whether the venue would be suitable for a band such as Zeal & Ardor; yes it is and tonight has proven just that. Although a bigger venue would provide much needed room for people to let their hair down.
For those of you out there that are looking for some alternative tunes to listen to, get this band on your radar.
ZEAL & ARDOR are pleased to confirm details of their headlining European tour this winter. The extensive run kicks off with seven UK shows in early November and calls into 14 countries, wrapping up in Switzerland mid-December.
Tickets go on sale at 10am local time this Friday from all good box offices and via the band’s official website www.zealandardor.com.