With the 2018 release of Zeal & Ardor’s sophomore album, Stranger Fruit, frontman Manuel Gagneux took a drastic step forward with his mad experiment of mixing black metal with traditional blues and African slave spirituals. Having grown a new branch on metal’s variegated family tree, Zeal’s second album is literally the Fruit of Gagneux’s labor, so we sat down with the Swiss mastermind to delve deep into one of metal’s buzziest acts.

From playing Brooklyn’s intimate Saint Vitus Bar in 2017 with a makeshift band to filling the Music Hall of Williamsburg this year with his full-time cohorts, Gagneux’s rise has been a whirlwind that’s only just begun. “I’ve grown numb to the insanity of it,” he says of Zeal & Ardor’s rise. “My jaw would be on the floor every time [something amazing happened] and it’s super unsanitary to live that way, so you just figure, just laugh at it.”

Gagneux actually doesn’t have gigantic expectations for Zeal & Ardor, admitting he expects fans to eventually get bored with his band. “I realize we’re in the midst of a hype and it’s something that doesn’t tend to have super much longevity. We’re all very conscious of that, so we just have as much fun as we can, I guess. I’m at total peace with it.”

Despite his prediction, Gagneux continues to further conceptualize Z&A, though he did pull back on one idea. As of this interview, Zeal have branded a total of eight fans with the group’s Sigil of Lucifer logo. Having heated up an iron and literally burnt the sigil into people’s flesh, Gagneux describes the experiment and how disturbing it was to watch.

“It’s kind of a critique on people blindly following musicians,” the frontman explains. “It’s disturbing every time. There was this stoic ginger fellow that just… blank. He had a poker face. At first I thought he was afraid of us, but it ended up being the other way around. That was the only cool and stoic guy; the other ones screamed.”

Check out our exclusive chat with Manuel Gagneux in the clip above. Zeal & Ardor are touring North America right now, so click here for the remaining dates and make sure to pick up a copy of Stranger Fruit.

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