The black metal, blues, and African American fusion of Zeal & Ardor’s music is the brainchild of musician Manuel Gagneux. He moved from his native Switzerland to New York, and took up the moniker Zeal & Ardor, having previously released music under the name Birdmask. The chamber pop of his Birdmask recordings is a far cry from the darker, heavier music he created for his Zeal & Ardor debut Devil Is Fine. He released the record in 2016, and Gagneux claims the project was kickstarted by a thread on a music board on the website 4Chan, which he was posting anonymously on. On hearing the record, some music journalists were convinced that the vocal chants were samples of old spirituals, but Gagneux insisted that all the vocals were his own work.
During the process of touring the record, Gagneux developed the project into a full band. Building on the fusion of black metal and gospel of his previous album he created the follow up Stranger Fruit. The 16-track record was produced by Zebo Adam and preceded by the lead single “Gravedigger’s Chant.”