By now, Zeal & Ardor’s performance at Roadburn 2017 has become the stuff of legends, the kind of thing you had to be there for (or were gutted to have missed)—but it almost didn’t
happen. The sound blew out twice during the 50 minutes Zeal & Ardor was allotted, leaving Swiss- American bandleader Manuel Gagneux and his backing musicians to troubleshoot as best
they could on a silent stage facing hundreds of expectant faces. After the PA had sputtered out for the second time, Gagneux turned to the audience, his slight frame and clouds of black
hair silhouetted against the blue lights and mounds of gear, an apologetic grin upon his face. Then, up from the crowd, came a ragged handful of voices, singing the chorus to the chillsinducingtitle track for his breakout album in unison: ”Devil is fine.” He leaned forward, and answered them—”Little one better heed my warning”—in that booming, bluesy voice of his,
and the audience finished the couplet for him. He sang back the next line, and back came the thunderous chorus, rising from several hundred throats.
That call-and-response only lasted a few seconds, but its impact reverberated through the rest of the festival. Word of mouth is crucial for a band like Zeal & Ardor—a bedroom project-turned-juggernaut that rose to hyped-up prominence in a matter of months and is sustained by fan interest instead of major label machinery—and those 50 minutes in that church cemented the band’s reputation as The Next Big Thing in Metal.