Manuel Gagneux is best known for his work fronting metal band Zeal & Ardor; however, his solo output under the identity Birdmask pre-dates Zeal & Ardor, with Gagneux creating music under this persona since 2011. It cannot be overstated that Gagneux is a hugely underrated artist, given his propensity to get creative and not conform to the parameters of a specified genre. His latest EP, Tristan, is the first of a two-part release, with the second half, Isolde, planned for early 2024.
Birdmask, whilst maintaining subtle familiarities with Zeal & Ardor, is very different in its approach to songwriting. Every song on this EP is emotionally driven, with a melancholy beauty behind each tune. At many points throughout, the moments of levity are restrained from becoming grand epic moments, such as in “Recovery.” It feels as if this is Gagneux’s way of keeping the listener focused as the very nature of these songs are, by design, easy to simply float away with as they subconsciously bring to the surface some difficult emotions.
Rather than dissect specific songs, though, it is more beneficial to comment on Tristan as a whole. The simple fact is that this style of songwriting is not for everyone, but it also has some of the most creative construction of sound that cannot be simply dismissed or called bad. It does, however, require a particular state of mind to appreciate what is on offer fully.
The final verdict? Tristan is an exceptional collection of tunes that Gagneux has poured his heart and soul into, and it must be heard and experienced. Just be prepared to be taken on a journey exploring the more troubled areas of your mind. You will, however, come out the other end with a smile and a tear in your eye, looking forward as if a picturesque sunrise was ahead of you. Put simply, you must listen to this, even if it is just once!
Tristan Track Listing:
1. Way Out
3. Dearly Beloved (feat. I Used to be Sam)
4. Leave the Rain Outside
5. Breathe In Breathe Out
Run Time: 16:19
Release Date: November 24th, 2023
Record Label: MVKA
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