Zeal & Ardor mastermind Manuel Gagneux has been an innovator in metal in recent years, combining jarring heavy metal with blues and slave chants, wrapped in the mystique of Satanism. On the group's two newest songs, "I Can't Breathe" and "Vigil," Magneux has placed turned his focus over to current events in response to racial injustice, namely in America and the growing Black Lives Matter movement.

Both of the songs will appear on Zeal & Ardor’s upcoming EP, Wake Of A Nation, which will be released Oct. 23 on Bandcamp.

First up is "I Can't Breathe," a track that clocks in at under 90 seconds, but uses its time with tremendous effect. It's a claustrophobic, industrialized passage lined with samples that speak to the problematic issue of the unjustified killings of Black men by police officers. The phrase became a part of the BLM movement in response to the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man who said the words before he was killed by police in 2014 after being put in a chokehold. It has been said by multiple people who died during encounters with law enforcement, most recently George Floyd, the Minnesota man who died, pleading, "I can't breathe," as officers placed a knee on the back of his neck for over eight minutes.

"Vigil" is a more somber offering as Gagneux's powerful, soulful voice conveys the plight of the Black experience in America. The lyrics (seen below via Genius) are a painful cry of desperation, begging for equality.

Here's what Gagneux said of the new songs and upcoming EP:

"[Author] Frederik Pohl once said: ‘It is and remains my conviction that a story has to speak for itself, and that any words a writer adds to it after he has finished telling it are a cop-out, a lie or a mistake.’
While I agree I feel pressed to make an exception for this EP.
'Wake Of A Nation's intent and context should be obvious. I like to revel in ambiguity and in room for interpretation. This is not the case here. These six songs are a knee jerk reaction to what has happened to my fellow people in the last months.
Originally I was set to record an album scheduled to come out next year. As these songs were written due to the horrendous events that instilled them I decided to release them as soon as possible. Using the rich heritage and culture as a part of my musical identity it felt like cowardice to sit by and continue with my routine as if nothing happenedThis record is for Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd and the countless untold and nameless killed.
It is for the brave souls willing to take a stand and ready to risk their own wellbeing so that others may have theirs intact.
“All revenues from sales and streaming of I Can’t Breathe will be donated.”

Listen to both songs below.

You took all we had away
You’re quick to call it sick, but we’ve been damned to say

I can’t breathe, it’s a cellphone
Please don’t shoot, I need to get home
I’m on my knees begging please

So you’re just following orders
They just keep falling on us
How many more will it last?
Why not just take all of us?

You took all our hope away
We try to keep it down but we’re all damned to say

I can’t breathe, it’s a cellphone
Please don’t shoot, I need to get home
I’m on my knees begging please

So you’re just following orders
They just keep falling on us
How many more will it last?
Why not just take all of us?

Wе won’t take this quietly
We won’t takе this quietly
(Won’t you help me run now?)
We won’t take this quietly
We won’t take this quietly
(Won’t you help me run now?)
We won’t take this quietly
We won’t take this quietly
(Won’t you help me run now?)
We won’t take this quietly
We won’t take this quietly
(Won’t you help me run now?)

How to take a life we’ll never get them back
(Won’t you help me run now?)

I can’t breathe, it’s a cellphone
Please don’t shoot, I need to get home
I’m on my knees begging please

These two new Zeal & Ardor songs are the first pieces of new music the band has released since their second album, 2018's Stranger Fruit, came out.

Zeal & Ardor, "I Can't Breathe"

Zeal & Ardor, "Vigil"

See Zeal & Ardor in the 30 Best Metal Albums of 2018