Review & Photography by Ritchie Birnie for MPM
The Swiss Avent Garde metal band took to one of Glasgow’s best venues and laid waste to the sold out crowd.
There was no support tonight so we were left with some very atmospheric background music and just friends and a bar to keep us entertained until the 8.30 kick off but boy when that intro music was pumped out of the speakers this crowd were champing at the bit(and maybe a little bit tipsy).
I will be honest, Zeal & Arbor had passed me by, the extreme end of the metal scale is not something I frequent often and rather than sit in front of a screen finding out what makes the band tick I decided to leave it to the band on the night and boy was I glad I did as I was completely blown away.
This band were on the ball for the atmosphere, the lighting(although some front lights to actually see the guys may be good) and the incredibly powerful compositions were spell binding. The fact I had not researched them before let my mind run free and with this band it was an incredible way to experience the concepts.
I have been a rock, metal and blues lover for over 40 years, I have seen a lot and the influences within these songs before, they were distinct, direct and felt very at home to my ears. I loved the depths, I loved the soul and I felt the journeys these tracks were meant to portray even before knowing the history…that in itself is a very powerful message.
That history is evident from the off as we belt into “Church Burns” the chants took me back hundreds of years and straight up to date with that feral, brutal sound only to drift back to those beautiful piano moments. One song in and I am totally enthralled, engaged and realise that I am witnessing something special.
From the haunting intro we jump off the deep end with “Gotterdammerung”. The place erupted as the song from the latest, self titled album burned your eardrums.
As if the band have been a bit drained from that performance there is a break and singer and creator Manuel Gagneux knows how to endear a Scottish crowd as he sups from a bottle of Buckfast before jumping into “Ship on Fire” and that old time feel is back.
It is incredible to think that a band and a concept can come from a post asking for two genres to splice together and what is even more unbelievable is that one man has the talent, vision and musicality to pull of something so aggressive and beautiful at the same time.
“Row, Row” is next up and this has my Blues and Soul tastebuds drooling and it is not lost on me that this whole feel is being portrayed in an old church and hey, myself, everyone here and especially the band are not smighted or struck down.
As the song ended and the cheers dies down there was an incredibly Glasgow moment as one punter shouted out “That was bloody amazing” at the top of their voice and once the laughter died down the usual Glasgow chant of here we, here we, here we fucking go rang around the hall before the band dove into “Gravedigger’s Chant” and I just let myself go and let the song roll over me.
I can just imagine this band with a full Evangelical choir, an Orchestra played inside a church…this would be incredible and since these guys go all out to to set a musical play before your eyes…make this happen.
During the central part of the show I just get immersed in the whole spectacle, I am severely impressed with everything that plays out and the musicianship is so good, from the intricate to the blow your fucking head off.
Having been going to shows and following music for over four decades I occasionally have a little bit of a crisis of faith, it usually kicks in every 10 years but usually around that time something comes along and kicks the genres up the ass and something new comes along to reinvigorate me and I think tonight I have found that band. I cannot convey what an awakening this show had for me(well I can give you an idea, 3 vinyls and one t-shirt purchased on the night).
Zeal & Arbor can be a new awakening just like the concept they hypothesize would be. With all the influences that are wrapped up in these songs they can gather all the waifs and strays, the rockers, the metalheads, the blues lovers and the extremists and be the single bridge that takes them to the shores of a new dawn, a new beginning.
I am 100% sure on just one show that these guys could be saviours for the music I love so much. The proof is in the pudding as this crowd is as varied as I have seen for years and the most pleasing aspect is the youth that is prevailant here tonight. Being an old fart I am used to seeing audiences made up of mostly over 40s but tonight the crowd are invigorated with so many different factions that everything feels new and like a musical birthing.
There is a huge 21 song setlist tonight and the encore section was there to physically and mentally drain every ounce of energy out of your body. It kicked off with “J-M-B”, followed up with the super dark “I Caught You” onto the twisted but uplifting “Come on Down” before finishing on the big man himself, “Baphomet”.
Tonight was an incredible experience and Zeal & Arbor are the real deal. This is the start of an uprising for sure and I am glad I am onboard, you should book your passage now too as we are going to different shores, it may be dark, it may be scary but is sure as hell is going to be eventful.