Zeal & Ardor
Like nearly everything else about Zeal & Ardor, Gagneux’s discovery of his remarkable vocal style was a happy accident. His approach to songwriting now isn’t quite as unorthodox as it was in the beginning, when he was idly whipping up joke songs to appease his fellow music nerds (and to mess with trolls) on online cesspool 4Chan’s music board. As a result of a racist comment, he stumbled onto a winning combination: a purposefully unholy conflagration of African-American spirituals, chain gangs songs, the blues, and Satanic black metal that drew lines between Scandinavia and the Delta, summoning both the blasphemous evils of the North and the bloodstained history of the South. Radicalis Records in Switzerland offered to release the project’s debut full-length, Devil Is Fine, in 2016 (with the Netherlands’ Reflections Records handling a limited vinyl release), and things snowballed from there.
Since the release of his breakthrough album, Devil Is Fine, he has been the subject of much attention in the metal world, ranging from fawning praise to damning grumbles about trends and “fake” metal. As a biracial Swiss-American—born to a white Swiss father and black American mother—he falls so far outside the narrow profile of a stereotypical black metal musician that he’s even been accused of “appropriating” black metal, which is even funnier when one considers where all heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll came from in the first goddamn place: black musicians.
The past year has been a whirlwind for Gagneux and his band, with invitations to play massive festivals like Reading and Leeds colliding with offers to open for Prophets of Rage and Marilyn Manson. He’s assembled a crack music industry team of high-octane publicists and booking agents who coordinate with his manager and record labels MVKA in Brighton, UK and Radicalis in Basel, Switzerland, who have helped guide him through the pitfalls of unexpected stardom. Zeal & Ardor made its debut North American appearance at Psycho Las Vegas 2017, with a short run of tour dates tacked on, including a NYC date at heavy metal haven Saint Vitus. Now, he’s preparing to take Zeal & Ardor on the road.