As we hit December silly season commences and for the next couple of weeks there are multiple shows on practically every night and we aint talking pantomimes. Round the corner Terror and assorted crews are tearing The Underworld a new one and at The Electric Ballroom it might be a little more subdued especially as the support band are called Blanket. I can’t say I ever expected to be watching a band with such a moniker but what’s in a name? I just hoped the Blanket experience was not going to be a wet one. It’s the third night of the tour and sees the headliners playing some select shows in the UK before heading off to France, some gigs in home country Switzerland and then Spain. Blanket have no doubt warmed up on the first couple of dates and with the doors having been opened for 90 minutes or so already, those not staying in a nearby pub were more than keen for some music. There’s some nice trippy lighting on stage, perhaps a bit of bling brought from home town Blackpool and the band are quick to lay out some cinematic post rock with opening track ‘A Sky Filled With Ghosts.  Definite shoegaze elements make it a fairly rich experience and many quickly find themselves nodding along. The vocals are a bit too delicate for my tastes but the boisterous intensity of the musicianship does make up for it. The group have just released new EP ‘Transfixion’ as well as album ‘How To Let Go’ earlier in the year. A poetic cut ‘The Devil Holds Fast Your Eyelids’ chugged away and gave us a bit of a progressive workout. Intense and ragged I found myself getting into this and for me the band definitely worked better instrumentally. The audience stood watching the group silhouetted and throwing shapes on the stage, gradually getting into things themselves. A good blanket of sound (sorry) is just what we got. Towards the end I got a definite vibe that was reminiscent of recent Anathema but as the last song proved there was also a shadow of the likes of Muse and Radiohead just a heartbeat away.

I certainly wasn’t the only person expecting a meteoric rise to fame for Zeal And Ardor, you could predict they had something special about them just hearing a couple of tracks from their debut album. They have quickly gone from smaller venues to the Electric Ballroom and even played Reading And Leeds festivals showing what a crossover appeal they have, the audience is mixed too but as the band come on stage to rapturous applause we are all united. With the stage in dark hues and the band wearing hoodies it’s a shady entrance in more ways than one and also a striking one as they power into ‘In Ashes’ with dense trembling sound and blinding vocal harmonies sweeping us right off our feet. Black and blues combine the drumming hits definite blastbeats and singer and muse Manuel Gagneux powers out his parts. The rest of the group should not be undersold in the slightest and by the time they hit ‘Servants’ the whole much busier venue is pumped and we are all aware that we are in for a special show tonight. Slinging a massive bass stage left Mia Rafaela Dieu hits the low end, the combined vocal talents of the lead and backing singers Denis Wagner and Mark Obrist are phenomenal and we are transported to bygone times swaying in the grip of the hymnal and fevered qualities of the music. If there were any cobwebs up in the rafters of the venue they are shaken off and somehow moving front to back and then back to the barrier pint in hand I can see the near adulation of the audience, those in the middle even getting a pit going as the music seethes and stews our senses.

With just the two albums we knew pretty much what we were going to get, basically more or less every song from them. ‘Row Row’ takes us on a giddy boat race with everyone singing along and paddling for dear life with their arm movements and a crowdsurfer can’t contain themselves going over the top. ‘You Aint Coming Back’ gives us a bit of a pause for breath and allows us to gently sway in its warm grip. The tracks from the new album are well and truly established now and ‘Stranger Fruit’ is likely to be featured on many an album of the year list if there’s any justice in this cold hard world. This is music that touches the senses and the very soul of the listener. Some songs are always going to be highlights and ‘Gravediggers Chant’ is definitely one as we dig into it getting as close to a baptism as mere music can take us. Although the band were excellent the first couple of times I have seen them they are practically on fire tonight and probably due to the reaction with the crowd feeding off the performance every step of the way the best I have yet witnessed. Seriously I will not be surprised at all to see them listed as headlining Brixton Academy in the not too distant future. For now though they simply play their hearts out and pack it all in, no time for between song chat apart from a thank you London from the beaming frontman. All good things must come to an end but not without ‘Devil Is Fine’ sung along by everyone here. As they finish and we all filter out feeling somewhat overawed by the whole experience I doubt there’s a single person not on a musical high.

Review and Photos Pete Woods