Last year, Zeal & Ardor digitally released their debut album Devil Is Fine, it picked up some buzz, and now they're giving it a worldwide physical release on February 24 via UK label MVKA. Zeal & Ardor started as the solo project of Manuel Gagneux, a Swiss-American who previously lived in NYC but is now back in Switzerland, and aimed to mix blues and slave spirituals with black metal. It actually, as Manuel says, started as a joke. Before Zeal & Ardor, Manuel released non-metal as Birdmask and frequently posted his music to 4Chan "to get feedback because they’re brutally honest and don’t give a shit about you," as he tells Noisey (who named Devil Is Fine the 6th best album of 2016). He used to ask other 4Chan posters to give him two genres and he'd combine them, and "one day, someone said 'nigger 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."

Since giving it more thought, Manuel found a deeper connection between the two sounds. According to a recent press release:

His approach draws on an alternate history and stems from two thoughts: Christianity was imposed upon American slaves, just as it was imposed in Norway, and black metal in the '90s grew as a rebellion to monotheism.

What would have happened if American slaves had rebelled in the same way? Or put bluntly: What would satanic spirituals sound like?

The results are pretty thrilling. Manuel is a gifted singer and his updated version of old spirituals is pretty convincing. When he abruptly transitions from his bluesy side to blast beats and harsh screams, it works. Even though Manuel was making softer music as Birdmask, according to that Noisey interview, he "grew up with black metal and listened to it excessively as a teen because it is a very teeny angsts kind of music."

Manuel recently turned Zeal & Ardor into a full band with "Marco on drums, Rafi playing the bass, Tizi wielding a guitar and Marc and Denis singing." They're set to tour this year, including a European run surrounding the Roadburn festival, and a trip to the US for Psycho Las Vegas. That's their only US show announced at the moment. All dates are listed below.

To prepare for the tour, the new full-band version of Zeal & Ardor tracked a live session at the Couleur 3 studio in Lausanne, Switzerland on January 18, 2017. To quote Manuel, " This was our first outing as a band. It's surreal to have your first gig in a swanky radio studio, but we’re super happy with how things turned out. Hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed playing." We're premiering the video of Zeal & Ardor playing Devil Is Fine's title track (one of their songs with basically no metal elements). Check that out, along with the song's official video and two other songs from the album, below (the whole album used to be on Bandcamp but they had to pull it after getting signed).

Zeal & Ardor -- 2017 Tour Dates
Apr 14 Czar Fest Basel, Switzerland
Apr 19 Le Glazart Paris, France
Apr 20 Underworld London, United Kingdom
Apr 21 Roadburn Festival Tilburg, Netherlands
Apr 22 Urban Spree Berlin, Germany
Apr 2 4Roxy Prague, Czech Republic
Apr 2 5Hydrozagadka Warsaw, Poland
May 3 Magnolia Milan, Italy
May 4 L'Usine Geneva, Switzerland
May 5 Kyttaro Athens, Greece
May 18 The Great Escape Festival Brighton, United Kingdom
May 19 The Great Escape Festival Brighton, United Kingdom
Aug 20 Psycho Las Vegas, NV


Also, Tom Morello is a fan:

More From Brooklyn Vegan