“Black metal” and “soul” aren’t two tags that you usually see next to each other. So when I saw both of them in the tags for Come on Down, the latest track from New York based Zeal & Ardor, alongside “melodic death metal”, “spirituals” and, appropriately enough, “eclectic”, it certainly piqued my interest. The resulting song wasn’t the gimmicky mash-up I was expecting, but turned out to be the most original, mysterious and downright unsettling track I’ve heard so far this year.
The miracle of Come on Down is that it manages to create such a consistent mood from such drastically opposed styles. The song builds from a gritty soul-inspired vocal and twanging guitar into full on black metal complete with blast beats and strangled screams, and at no point do you notice a break in the song’s natural progression or the eerie, menacing atmosphere. Layers of jarring imagery overlap to create something uniquely disturbing; the bluesy vocals initially call to mind antebellum-era slave chants but the sinister guitar lines twist the scene into something cultish or demonic.
Composer and mastermind Manuel Gagneux clearly gives no regard to genre confines and is perfectly willing to borrow from any style or era of music if it serves the song. So if adding a melodic NWOBHM riff or some neo-classical piano flourishes will take the song to new heights then that’s exactly what he does. The fact that all these different sounds fit into a three and a half minute song is impressive- the fact that the song is both consistent atmospherically and thoroughly enjoyable is simply incredible.