Article by Pablo Fernández from Barcelona on Thursday, December 23rd 2021 ·.·★ Reading takes 18 minutes or 3586 words.
Manuel Gagneux was born in 1989. His father Ohlé Gagneux worked as a Cuban music percussionist in the nineties and was able to give him a childhood that he now identifies as “privileged”. It was written that his son would soon master the details of the music industry. At the age of 23, Manuel moved to New York and searched the Internet for a merger that could be linked to his love of Black Metal - which is where he had already formed in adolescence. Now he is 30 years old and his third studio recording with Zeal & Ardor entitled “Stranger Fruit”, has been chosen by MondoSonoro as the best metal album of 2018. In interviews he is used to being wrong especially when he talks about history, at the same time It demonstrates your great marketing skills.
Who needs to tell the truth when what you really need to do is sell a product? Especially if your product is the show. As an enterprising musician, Manuel Gagneux makes sure to use Satanist symbology profusely in creativity, just as Led Zeppelin, Marilyn Manson or HIM did at the time. Manuel Gagneux also creates promotional campaigns through which fans are rewarded if they mark their clothing or skin with his symbols. The musician assures the press that of course he does not believe in the Devil, nor is he religious, but that he works in show business and tries to play his rightful role well. His personal philosophy, however, assured Revolver magazine that it is a particular variation on what Anton LaVey, the narcissistic founder of the first Church of Satan in San Francisco, taught last century. P>
The sound of Zeal & Ardor is frankly good and overwhelming in the vein of ′Carmina Burana′ by Carl Orff or ′The Omen′ by Jerry Goldsmith, which even being a black mass in Latin literally won the Oscar for Best Band Sonora in 1976. Manuel Gagneux, therefore, is used to exaggerating the originality of the fusion that is made on his records. The black musics of the United States of America that he claims to have studied in the historical archives of Alan Lomax, in fact, are already clearly identified in the sound of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, which is the particular sound that will serve as the basis for Scandinavian Black Metal groups. Hundreds of groups such as Agalloch, Oranssi Pazuzu or Om have experienced it since the mid-1990s and continue to experiment today with folk sounds from all kinds of American, Nordic or Asian civilizations. What is uniquely exceptional is the media coverage Zeal & Ardor′s work has had.
Manuel Gagneux assures that he knew Black Metal well when he created Zeal & Ardor, but that there was very little room for experimentation in this sector. It is hardly credible that he did not know the Black Metal scene in his neighboring country, France, where groups like Elend, Deathspell Omega or Igorrr were already experimenting with Black Metal since 1996. The French record company ′Norma Evangelium Diaboli′ for example had released the music from a group suspiciously similar to yours: Aluk Todolo. The name of this French group of Satanist inspiration is also a conjunction of two words on the way to extinction in the Toraja region and evokes an ancient religion now banned by the Indonesian government. There are, of course, a good number of coincidences between the two groups. Not surprisingly, Deafheaven′s transgressive Black Metal album ′Sunbather′ had achieved the unusual position of 92 out of 100 on Metacritic just the same year that Manuel Gagneux formed Zeal & Ardor.
The idea that the monotheism of Christianity is humanity′s worst enemy, obviously, has not been invented by Manuel Gagneux either. The desire to recover the polytheistic pagan cultures and pre-Christian cults that existed in northern Europe, in fact, arises from Romanticism in the early 20th century and is soon appropriated by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. Because of course, Christ was a Jew. If we speak of contemporary music, however, we necessarily have to speak of later dates. Anthony Charles Wakeford, for example, started out playing punk in 1977 but has ended up being instrumental in creating labels like neofolk. According to the last.fm network, about a thousand music groups use this label to define their style and, as usual in these cases, they are surrounded by a very defined and particular philosophy.
Icelandic musician Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, for example, is high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið church. With its more than 4,000 members this is today one of the largest religious institutions or movements of the so-called Neopaganism. As in many Christian churches today, in these associations it does not matter too much if you believe one thing or another about Odin and the rest of the inhabitants of Asgard. They have at least, yes, a common and widespread desire to end the traces of Christianity. There are therefore dozens of variations that today try to rescue paganism, to which groups such as Wardruna, Burzum or Mayhem were already in debt - some of which were involved in the burning of historic churches in northern Europe. It is then that Manuel Gagneux, following a coincidence that he claims to have discovered by chance, decides to identify Christianity as a common enemy: ′I think there are similarities in, for example, the fact that Christianity was imposed on the Norwegians and on the American slaves ′.
What the same journalist from The Guardian newspaper answered is very true: ′Sorry, but Christianity was imposed on the Norwegians by their King Olaf II.′ It is not honest to blame the Romans, Goths or Saxons for the Christianization of the Nordic countries. It is true that the first to speak of Christianity in Denmark, Norway or Sweden were the þræll or servants. These prisoners or slaves forced to serve on the Norse farms, who were captured in the looting that the Vikings did in England, France or Germany, obviously had very little influence on the thinking of their masters. Little influence on everything compared to the influence that the true precursors of Christianity had in Scandinavia.
The true precursors of Christianity that ended paganism in northern Europe were precisely the kings or heads of the Viking clans like Olaf Tryggvason, who killed all the subjects who did not convert to Christianity as we saw in the article on Metallica. There were obviously political and economic interests at stake. It is therefore easy to doubt that those forced massive conversions were produced by the religious fervor of the Viking leaders and kings. In any case, the Vikings themselves were the protagonists of the disappearance of paganism in Scandinavia and this is the part of history that Manuel Gagneux continually hides.
Racism is still today, not in vain, one of the elements that most divides the organisms that shape Neopaganism. Many organizations such as Asatru Folk Assembly, Wolves of Vinland or The Order combine Neopaganism, white supremacy or Satanism and have been identified by the government of the United States of America as hostile and potentially dangerous groups. Obviously the segregation of the men of the North went much further than that which the difference of race could generate. Critics of racism within Neopaganism today have to do real stunts to justify hundreds of years of massacres of those who were simply ′the others.′
Men did not need Christianity to execute the orders of totalitarians such as Wu Zetian, Genghis Khan or Attila. The end of the slave trade and the beginning of the right to freedom in the Scandinavian kingdoms during the 11th century is, by the way, one of the results of Christianity most ignored by Neopaganism. The exception made by the Viking Hallvard Vebjørnsson as early as 1043 cost him his life and was used as an example for complete abolition in the 4th century. This son of nobles was trying to protect a pregnant slave when she was being chased by three armed men. That was why they sank him to the bottom of the sea with a stone around her neck and they buried her on the beach. P>
It is not honest to suggest that Manuel Gagneux was the first to bring gospel to paganism. The blues itself actually emerged from black spirituals and was often crossed with gospel thanks to musicians like Boyd Rivers, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Sam Collins, Josh White, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Willie Mctell, Bukka White, Sleepy John Estes or Skip James. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was in fact very influential on Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck or Keith Richards. As early as 1957 Jerry Lee Lewis brought this transgression to the radio. Ray Charles created with soul an authentic musical style proper using precisely the blues and gospel. Marvin Gaye, James Brown or Ben Harper are just a few more examples of this miscegenation. King′s X′s Doug Pinnick even brought gospel to metal in the 1990s, and now musicians like Franklin James Fisher from Algiers do so to electronic music.
The sub-Saharan tribes we saw in the article on Psalm 137 that they had suffered for hundreds of years the occupation, plunder and enslavement at the hands of Muslims before they began to be sold in the United States of America. They had not assimilated Islam, much less were they going to assimilate Christianity! We will now see why it is not honest either to affirm like Manuel Gagneux that Christianity was imposed on African-American slaves. Christians who had bought slaves to maintain their business in the United States of America had good reason not to want to admit their conversion.
According to historical records, masters often refused to allow their slaves to be baptized. Firstly because that conversion gave the slaves a higher category that made them feel uncomfortable. Blacks had found a great advantage in keeping whites out of their private lives, and the reality is that whites were much more comfortable keeping that same distance. It is true that exceptionally there were Anglican missionaries who sought the conversion of this African-American population, but the historical records that they left themselves speak that they did not succeed in changing customs. African Americans thus had the autonomy to maintain until the 20th century mainly a complex belief system inherited from Africa, now recognized by the name of Hoodoo. These ritual practices allowed them to incorporate new elements of Native Americans, Jews or Christians, thanks to which the god of the Yoruba pantheon called Legba protected them above all.
The slaves were not inclined to Satanism as Manuel Gagneux assures the Metal Covenant magazine. Legba or Papa Legba was a protective and enabling divinity, also identified by African Americans as ′The Black Man′, by the color of his clothing, and was revealed to men generally at crossroads. This benefactor god has gone down in the history of music through the pact made with him by a singular blues musician born in 1911 and then known as Robert Leroy Johnson. Legba could be identified with the Devil but only to mislead the whites. Saxophonist Charlie Parker claimed that whites ′had no idea what was going on at home.′ This exciting subject is, by the way, one of the main episodes in history that have been treated in the fantastic documentary entitled ′Devil at the Crossroads′, which is now available on Netflix.
The simulation scenario of Christianity whereby, according to philosophy professor Royer L. Taylor, African Americans “made white man look like a pig”, is perfectly credible and very similar to that described by Anton LaVey in his memoirs when talk about whites. Anton LaVey, who wrote The Satanic Bible in 1969, the book that will later serve as the basis for Manuel Gagneux′s beliefs, writes that he confirmed the falsehood of Christianity by observing the hypocrisy of Christians. He doesn′t really say anything new. In fact, several authors had described in the same Bible simulation pictures of Christianity already in the 1st century. The problem and what Manuel Gagneux does not say in his interviews, is that the honesty of Anton LaVey′s memoirs is also discredited by his biographers like Lawrence Wright, James R. Lewis or Nikolas Schreck.
Anton LaVey, they claim, after following in his footsteps, invented all those adventures as a circus clerk, as a musician at Christian revival meetings, or as a photographer for the San Francisco Police Department. We saw a similar case long ago linked to Mike Warnke. What does seem to be true is that in 1963 he had a daughter now known as Zeena Schreck. Anton LaVey used it as an advertising resource, even selling records with the music of his baptism at the age of three, which he identified as the First Satanic Baptism in history. She herself collaborated with her father until 1990. According to Zeena Schreck′s account on her own website, while traveling the country defending her father′s work, she had a serious crisis of faith and began to give credibility to the arguments that pointed to the falsehood of the legend since many of his works had been plagiarized. Zeena assures that it was then that Anton LaVey and his administrator Blanche Barton put her life at risk. P>
Anton LaVey went to great lengths to connect with the most influential people of his day. As in many of these religious movements, only the name of the institution is longer than the list of real members and his own wife has confessed that she forged Marilyn Monroe′s signature for it. Zeena Schreck, his daughter, describes a very credible picture of Anton LaVey, especially bearing in mind that for his father the objective of the human being should be to constitute your own will as the only legitimate authority. Aleister Crowley, who did a much more elaborate job than Anton LaVey, synthesized it very well with the following phrase: ′Do what you want, it will be your only law.′ This law, however, has two important difficulties to be put into practice today and neither of those impediments are the Christian neighbors - who, as we have seen, are not at the moment of truth so different from the rest of the beings humans.
The first difficulty encountered by people who want to put into practice that epicurean and unique law of modern Satanism is that in the end, in everyday life, we are unable to do anything completely alone. It has been rightly said that we even ′read to know that we are not alone.′ Manuel Gagneux is the first to need his audience for his work. If it were possible to completely isolate ourselves from the rest of human beings, we could perhaps make our will prevail over that of others without resistance from others, but this is not the case and, in fact, probably, in that hypothetical case of maximum isolation, our will I would begin to change to begin to wish precisely that we did not have so much space for ourselves.
That awareness of the need to also count on the will of others is, in fact, what would end up throwing Anton LaVey′s disillusioned daughter into the arms of modern Buddhism. Kerry King, composer and guitarist of Slayer, for example, which is by the way a group far from being able to accuse itself of Christianity, assured for the same reason that after having read Anton LaVey′s book he could not take it seriously since: “it was a way to manipulate your mind to make you believe that you are what they want you to be ”. Despite how difficult personal relationships are and how bad we have done in the past, despite how bad we do it over and over again today, the truth is that we continue to need others. Not in vain the second commandment of the law in the Bible is “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
There is a second difficulty that those same people encounter, those who still want to continue putting into practice that law of ′do what you want, it will be your only law.′ That difficulty is that we rarely know what we want and when we do, very often, it takes just a few moments to doubt and even change our mind. And if we finally get something we have wanted, we automatically discover that it was not what we need and we start over. It is not true that our will is solid like those monolithic prehistorics that many in Neopaganism approach. Rather, as the prophet Isaiah said: “We expect light, and behold, darkness; shines, and we walk in darkness. We feel the wall like the blind, and grope as if without eyes; we stumble at noon as at night; we are in dark places like the dead. We all growl like bears, and groan pitifully like doves; we expect justice, and there is none; salvation, and is far from us. ”
Human beings prefer to create vast pantheons of gods in our image and likeness, so it is no coincidence that in the end our gods offer very similar results to what we would have had ourselves. In the Bible God is shown as ′completely other′ when he says that he hates what we love so much and loves what we so hate. This monotheistic God is also, according to the same author, devoid of attractiveness for us to desire him naturally. It is because he is so different from us that he can afford to say that he will be faithful where we have been unfaithful.
Jesus, who is the fulfillment of that promise without attractiveness for men mentioned by Isaiah, began his mission in this world by reading this other text by the same author: ′The Spirit of the Lord has sent me to preach good news to the downcast , to bind up the broken-hearted, to publish freedom for the captives, and to open the jail to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the good will of the Lord. ′ They were too pretty words to be credible if he didn′t have some ability other than ours. Because what use was it to that poor Viking named Hallvard Vebjørnsson losing her life if he couldn′t even save the slave woman′s life or the creature she carried in her womb? P>
The empty tomb of Jesus is undoubtedly the key that still allows Christians today to trust that there will be salvation in him. It is because his victory over death was only the first step he had to take to achieve victory over our own death as well. “For the perishable must clothe itself with the incorruptible,” writes the apostle Paul, “and the mortal, with immortality. When the corruptible is clothed with the incorruptible, and the mortal, with immortality, then what is written will be fulfilled: Death has been swallowed up by victory. Where is, oh die, your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?′.
This is an short translation of the original article published in Spanish by Entrelíneas: Revista de Arte as Manuel Gagneux y la satanización del cristianismo en Zeal & Ardor