Zeal and Ardor: 8 Albums & 3 Things That Inspired ‘Devil Is Fine’

Zeal and Ardor

Devil is Fine is out now via MVKA Music.

Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the weirdest and unique bands we happened upon here at Overblown last year was Zeal and Ardor. Combining the deliberate rhythm and chants of slave spirituals/chain gang songs with the furious distortion of black metal, Zeal and Ardor’s latest release Devil is Fine is a singular and idiosyncratic experience. It is the type of music that when you hear it for the first time, you’re not sure if it is the best thing you’ve ever heard or the worst. Ultimately though, the music compels the listener to return and listen to it again and again and again.

Recently, we were lucky enough to get a chance to chat with Manuel Gagneux, the mastermind behind Zeal and Ardor, about the albums, and some other things, that inspired Devil is Fine.

Order yourself a copy of Devil is Fine.

1. Alan Lomax recordings


The wealth of music this man and his father recorded is just stunning. From field hollers to prison chants all seem to share this weight and emotion. They were a great source of inspiration (i.e. theft) and a much needed point of reference for the sonic aesthetics of some songs. They’re all in the public domain and free to listen to online. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

2. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs


Tom Waits has the skill to transport the listener into his odd and captivating world instantly. That is something magical and fascinating to me. Rain dogs I feel paints the most clear sketch of this odd place and sonically is so secular in that there is no matching artist or anything that can emulate the mood of this record. Not everyone’s cup’o’tea, but interesting nonetheless. Lyrically some of the best things I had the pleasure to hear. Also Marc Ribot’s guitar style on this just bleeds cool.

3. Mr. Bungle – California


There is something amazing about people following their vision without compromise. Mr. Bungle very much falls into that category. Basically an anthology of different stories jammed into one record it gives me excitement everytime I listen to it, even though I know all of it by heart. Another reason I love this thing is the levity it approaches music with. Something rare and oh so good.

4. Death Grips – Exmilitary / The Money Store


Another group following their vision free of compromise. This is music utterly free of pandering and exclusively sounding like the music the artist wants to make the result is a new form of aggression I haven’t experienced. Even if I was someone that didn’t like it I’d have to respect that. Hearing that Hella’s drummer had a rap project peaked my interest but nothing could have prepared me for actually hearing it. The production style here also ignores form and expectation, creating something new and abrasive. I very much like that.

5. Naglfar – Sheol


When I first heard “I am Vengeance” I was hooked. It was one of those records, that simply dominated my listening habits for over a month. The blend of brutal riffing and melody this album provides tickles me in all the wrong and right ways. I had the pleasure of seeing them live and was also thoroughly impressed with their show. Essential listening.

6. Erik Satie – Pièces froides: trois danses de travers


I learned a lot about melody and phrasing by listening to Erik Satie and Debussy. Satie just tended to strike more of an emotional chord with me. His arrangements are simple, but always utterly beautiful. Incidentally this is probably also the guy Chilly Gonzales studied most. This is why I included Sacrilegium II and III.

7. Burzum – Filosofem


Duh. Say what you want about the creators, but the record is amazing.

8. John Carpenter – The Fog (Soundtrack)


This soundtrack is actually interchangeable with anything the man has done. This guy certainly knows his way around a synthesizer and his soundtracks are what got me hooked on these strange machines. Consequently he is to blame for an unholy amount of lost time and money. I love him for it.

9. Three other things that inspired Devil Is Fine:  Caffeine

I drink an unholy amount of coffee and without it I’d probably just lay on the floor dozing in and out of consciousness. It’s not a great look.

10. 4chan

4chan’s music board is where I’d go for feedback because the people there simply did not give a damn about me. So if they feel a certain way about a piece of music they will simply say so in the most raw and direct way possible. It’s also where I’d play the game of asking posters to name 2 different musical genres and make a song of them in 30 minutes or so. That’s what got this whole thing started.

11. Romantically uneventful teenage years

Not being much of a cavalier in my teens gave me more than enough time to hone my musical skills and look deeply into what made me feel something in music.

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