Zeal and Ardor is a Black Metal project by Manuel Gagneux, a Swiss-American musician who had previously created a project called Birdmask, that he describes as Crycore. Zeal and Ardor’s debut album ‘Devil is Fine’ was first released on Bandcamp in 2016 and re-released by MVKA on February 24, 2017. Gagneux wrote and recorded the album himself (source).
The album’s core idea is based on one question: what would it sound like if slaves had sung songs that didn’t praise god, but satan. The result is a highly unique mix of Gospel, Jazz, Pop and Black Metal. Gagneux apparently got the idea in conversations on 4chan (source).
The cover artwork of ‘Devil is fine’ shows a portrait of Robert Smalls, an enslaved African American who gained freedom and became a ship’s pilot, sea captain, and politician. He freed himself, his crew and their families from slavery by commandeering a Confederate transport ship and sailing it from Confederate-controlled waters to the U.S. blockade. His example and persuasion helped convince President Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy (source).
The portrait is superimposed by Lucifer’s sigil, a historical magical sigil used occasionally as an emblem by modern Satanists. The sign originates in the sixteenth century Italian Grimoirium Verum, or “Grimoire of Truth.” Used in conjunction with other symbols, its original purpose of the sigil was to aid in a visual invocation of the angel Lucifer.
Overall the cover design perfectly reflects the disturbing and intriguing approach of Zeal and Ardor and its music. Here’s the official video for ‘Devil is fine’.