Zeal & Ardor Credit: Matthias Willi

Swiss-born, New York-based multi-instrumentalist Manuel Gagneux found inspiration for Zeal & Ardor, his solo black-metal project, in the asshole of the Internet: 4chan. Gagneux had taken to asking the online message board’s anonymous users to suggest genres he could blend together, and Zeal & Ardor came about when somebody suggested mixing “black metal” with the music of . . . well, black people, except the commenter used America’s most loaded N-word instead. (Gagneux is biracial, with a black mother and a white father.) He wound up spinning that shit into gold, melding black metal’s lo-fi tremolo picking and rattling blastbeats with blues melodies and overdubbed, emotionally heavy vocal harmonies that recall the traditions of the Mississippi Delta. The vocals on Z&A’s 2016 debut, Devil Is Fine (Radicalis/MVKA), so successfully evoke the spirituals recorded by famous ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax that Gagneux faced accusations of unlawful sampling. In fact, the singing is all his own; in a 2016 interview with Texas music blog Toilet Ov Hell, Gagneux spoke of studying Lomax’s recordings with a clinical approach, though that detachment is thankfully missing from his recordings. Even when he strays from the realm of rock and remixes his parts into a techno assault, as on “Sacrileguim I,” his music hits hard enough to bruise.   v