Zeal & Ardor

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Zeal & Ardor
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Zeal & Ardor in 2017
Background information
OriginBasel, Switzerland[1] / New York City[2]
Genres
Years active2013–present
LabelsMVKA,[9] Radicalis[10]
Websitehttps://www.zealandardor.com/
Members
  • Manuel Gagneux
  • Denis Wagner
  • Marc Obrist
  • Tiziano Volante
  • Mia Rafaela Dieu
  • Marco von Allmen

Zeal & Ardor[note 1] is an avant-garde metal musical project started and led by Manuel Gagneux, a Swiss-American musician who had previously created a chamber pop project called Birdmask. Formed in 2013, the band mixes sounds of negro spirituals with black metal.

Initially a solo project, the band signed with MVKA records in 2016 and expanded to a full lineup, with Gagneux on vocals and guitar, backing vocalists Denis Wagner and Marc Obrist, guitarist Tiziano Volante, bassist Mia Rafaela Dieu, and drummer Marco Von Allmen. The project started in New York City, but is now based in Basel, Switzerland.

Zeal & Ardor has released two albums, Devil Is Fine (2016), and Stranger Fruit (2018), as well as a demo album Zeal and Ardor (2014).

History[edit]

Background[edit]

Zeal & Ardor in June 2018.

Gagneux was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1989, to an African American mother and Swiss father.[11][12] Both of Gagneux's parents were musicians, and he learned piano at an early age.[13] Growing up, he frequently listened to grindcore and technical and melodic death metal artists.[14] As a teenager, he was in a black metal band named Hellelujah.[14] After moving to New York City in 2012, Gagneux started Birdmask, a chamber pop project.[11]

Gagneux posted his Birdmask music to 4chan, as he said “to get feedback because they’re brutally honest and don’t give a shit about you,”.[15] He would ask users for two musical genres to combine and create a song in half an hour, as an experiment to expand his creativity.[16] One of these users suggested that he fuse "black metal", while another suggested "nigger music"; in response, he started Zeal & Ardor, which features elements of both black metal and Negro spirituals.[17][4] Other genres suggested included "Afro Djent, Nashville Power Electronics and Industrial Grunge".[18] Gagneux later stated the band came from the question of "what if American slaves had embraced Satan instead of Jesus?".[19][20] Both the words zeal and ardor are synonyms for enthusiasm.

Self-titled release and Devil Is Fine (2014-2016)[edit]

The project's very first release was a work in progress of a song called "A Spiritual", released on SoundCloud on December 13, 2013.[21][better source needed]

Gagneux self-released the demo album Zeal and Ardor to Bandcamp in June 2014.[22]

The project's official debut album, Devil Is Fine, was first released on Bandcamp on April 15, 2016 [23] Gagneux wrote and recorded the album himself.[24]

In November 2016, the band was featured on an article written by Bandcamp about black experimental metal.[25] In June 2016, Rolling Stone featured Devil Is Fine as one of the "Best Metal Records of 2016 So Far".[26]

Vocalist and guitarist Manuel Gagneux

On November 11, 2016, Gagneux announced his signing with the UK based record company MVKA.[27] The lead single "Devil Is Fine" had a music video released on December 15, 2016.[28] A second single, "Come On Down", was released on January 16, 2017.[29]

MKVA re-released Devil Is Fine on February 24, 2017.[30] It charted at 17 on the Swiss Hitparade charts.

Expansion to full band and Stranger Fruit (2017-present)[edit]

In 2017, the project became a full-fledged band with the addition of backing vocalists Denis Wagner and Marc Obrist, guitarist Tiziano Volante, bassist Mia Rafaela Dieu, and drummer Marco Von Allmen.[31][32] Gagneux formed the full band after promoter Walter Hoeijmakers asked him to play Roadburn Festival.[33] They opened for Prophets of Rage for two shows in London and Germany in 2017.[34]

Guitarist Tiziano Volante.

Zeal & Ardor offered a unique merchandise deal during their 2018 shows, fans could get free merchandise if they branded the band's logo onto their skin. Eight people took up the offer, with Gagneux saying "The intent was that no one would ever do it. Because that’s the whole thing: you don’t want this brand. If you do, you’re just an idiot who is following, not thinking for yourself. If they want to underline my statement, that’s fine with me. But eight people is enough. If they don’t get the symbolism, let’s not encourage them.”[35][36]

The next album, Stranger Fruit, was released on June 8, 2018.[37] It was preceded by the singles "Gravedigger's Chant",[38] "Waste",[39] and "Built On Ashes".[40]

In June 2018, the band's song "Devil Is Fine" from Devil Is Fine was featured in a trailer for the upcoming video game The Division 2.[41]

Tours & festival appearances[edit]

In June 2018, the band announced a North American tour with support from Astronoid, as well as a solo European tour.[42][43] They will also perform at the 2018 Montreux Jazz Festival.[44] In addition, they performed at several other festivals, including, Download Festival,[45] Lowlands,[46] by:Larm,[47] Musilac Music Festival,[48] Primavera Sound,[49] Wacken Open Air,[50] Hellfest,[51] Graspop Metal Meeting,[52] Le Guess Who?,[53] Copenhell,[54] Eurosonic Noorderslag,[55] Devilstone Open Air,[56] and Reading and Leeds Festivals,[57] among others.

Influences[edit]

bassist Mia Rafaela Dieu

The band is influenced by artists such as Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone, Wendy Carlos,[14] and Tom Waits[18] as well as nu-metal bands such as Deftones and Limp Bizkit, who Gagneux states are his "guilty pleasures".[58] Gagneux also lists writers Philip K. Dick and Octavia Butler as influences on his music.[59]

Band members[edit]

  • Manuel Gagneux – lead vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, synthesizer, programming (2013–present)
  • Denis Wagner – backing vocals (2017–present)
  • Marc Obrist – backing vocals (2017–present)
  • Tiziano Volante – rhythm guitar, lead guitar (2017–present)
  • Mia Rafaela Dieu – bass (2017–present)
  • Marco Von Allmen – drums (2017–present)
Gagneux in 2017

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions
SWI
[60]
GER
[61]
BEL
[62]
UK Rock
[63]
US Ind.
[64]
US Heat.
[65]
AUT
[66]
2014 Zeal and Ardor
2016 Devil Is Fine 17
2018 Stranger Fruit 2 27 112 15 24 3 30
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Singles[edit]

  • "Devil Is Fine" (2016)
  • "Come On Down" (2017)
  • "Gravedigger's Chant (2018)
  • "Waste" (2018)
  • "Built On Ashes" (2018)
  • "You Ain't Coming Back" (2018)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2017 Heavy Music Awards[67] Best Breakthrough Band Zeal & Ardor Nominated
2017 Loudwire Music Awards[68] Best New Artist Zeal & Ardor Nominated
2017 Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards[69] Best New Band Zeal & Ardor Nominated
2018 Swiss Music Awards[70][71] Best Live Act Zeal & Ardor Nominated

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ also stylized as Zeal and Ardor

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Reveron, Sean (7 June 2016). "A Must Hear Release of 2016...Zeal and Ardor "Devil Is Fine"". CVLT Nation. Archived from the original on 18 November 2016. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
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  66. ^ austrian charts
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  70. ^ swiss music awards
  71. ^ nominees

External links[edit]