Metal is the most diverse and ever-expanding genre of music on the planet. Mad scientist metalheads are constantly cooking up new hybrid styles, and Zeal & Ardor may be the next exciting branch of metal’s dense family tree.

Zeal & Ardor mastermind Manuel Gagneux blends black metal and its Satanic overtones with African slave chant and gospel. It’s a truly unheard of mix that shouldn’t work… but the final product is a vision that feels inspired at every turn. Funnily enough, Zeal & Ardor began as “kind of a joke” according to Gagneux that’s become “way too fun to stop.”

In an interview with Noisey, Gagneux explained the bizarre and somewhat disturbing origins of Zeal & Ardor. “You know 4Chan, that weird website? I used to make these threads where I would ask people for musical genres; one would post “swing”, and the other would post “hardcore gabber techno” and I’d fuse the two and make a song of it in 30 minutes,” Gagneux said. “One day, someone said ’n—ger music’ and another said ‘black metal.’ I didn’t make the song then, but it stuck with me, and I thought it was an interesting idea.”

As for Zeal & Ardor’s Satanic lyrical themes, Gagneux explained, “I think there are parallels with, say, Christianity being forced upon both the Norwegians and the American slaves, and I kind of wondered what would’ve happened if slaves would’ve rebelled in a similar fashion to Burzum or Darkthrone.”

What makes Zeal & Ardor so interesting is the black metal and slave music influences switch between the forefront and background on any given track. “Children’s Summon” assaults the listener with blast beats, tremolo picking and harsh vocals as primary dynamics, while slave themes are somewhat secondary.

Switching roles, a song like “Devil is Fine” (which a stunning video has been made for) sounds like it could be played on mainstream and urban radio, pushing the track’s black metal elements to the back of production. Then there’s “Come on Down,” which flips back and forth between black metal and African chant in a surprisingly effective bi-polar manner.

If you’re looking for something new to kick off your 2017, give Zeal & Ardor a listen in the players above and below! You may have heard the act’s sophomore album, Devil is Fine, in 2016, but it’s getting an official re-release via MVKA Music on Feb. 24. To pre-order the album, click here.

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