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Biography by Ryan J. Downey (MTV / Billboard / AltPress)
Fists raised in the air. Bodies, heavily perspiring, crush against each other and threaten to burst through steel barricades. Security forces gaze forward with a mix of aggression, tension and fear. Monstrous decibels pound each and every human in the chest, relentless, overpowering, captivating. Is this some club consumed by fiercely “kvlt” dystopian noise? A festival tent, throbbing with oppressively jagged electronic grooves? Are there headbangers hoisting cups of beer, or Millennials enthralled in rapturous joy?
Zardonic is as much as “band” as it is a concept, an idea, a perfect flashpoint and balance between divergent styles joined together through a prism of aggression, atmosphere and absolute immersion. Zardonic is a symbol, an icon, a mask; increasingly as ubiquitous in the international hard EDM and heavy metal underground as the mask worn by Deadmau5. Zardonic is also a person. Venezuelan born Federico Augusto Ágreda Álvarez is a multi-instrumentalist, DJ, composer and mixer, whose fingerprints dirtied remixes from Australian speedcore merchants The Berzerker, long-running Norwegian black metal titans Gorgoroth and massive standard bearers Nine Inch Nails.
“Zardonic isn’t just about noise; it’s very musical. The notes, melodies, progressions – it’s all very metal. It’s rich in a way that’s hard to achieve with a lot of heavy EDM music,” says Ágreda. “That’s what makes it exciting for me. There’s noise in there, sure, but more in the spirit of the way Trent Reznor is able to build songs from the noise.”
Ágreda’s alter ego is the penultimate Frankenstein monster, built from body parts like the industrialized angst of the legendary Ministry, the savage contrarianism of German “digital hardcore” rabble-rousers Atari Teenage Riot, and the attitude of screamo-singer-turned-cultural-flashpoint, Skrillex. But never before has a marriage of metal, hard EDM and chaos captured the balance of Zardonic’s forthcoming eOne Music debut.
Fans familiar with Zardonic’s work via his appearance on releases issued by DJ Dieselboy’s SubHuman: Human Imprint and Skrillex’s OWSLA label will recognize the signature blueprint within the new material. But Zardonic’s definitive work expands into a heady mind trip through extreme metal inspired electronic music, inclusive of drum n’ bass, with the same signature sound warped through various tempos. Dubstep isn’t in the recipe, but fierce vocals, guitars, break-beats, hardcore and Glitch burn brightly.
Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, Dutch DJ/producer Tiësto and likeminded electronic mavens were doing their thing, but the crossover impact of EDM in recent years is undeniable, particularly with the introduction of more intense noise. “The house DJs, the trance DJs, it felt like a closed niche. Skrillex blasted the doors open for the more underground sound,” Ágreda explains. “Not all of his music is up my alley, but most of it is; I have a lot of respect for him. And dude, if it wasn’t for that one track he put on a free OWSLA compilation for me, I’d say at least half of my fans wouldn’t know who I am.”
A handful of metal acts have introduced EDM elements into their songs, but nevertheless remain confined to the heavy metal scene and heavy metal fans. A Zardonic performance at an EDM festival, mixed down as club tracks, boasts huge subs go head-to-head with the hardest of electro out there, enhanced by distorted extreme guitars. It’s the perfect balance of the two worlds, fully capable of dominating in each.
“Most of the club DJs and electronic music producers that tried to put some metal elements into their music, it was pretty much just drum and bass tracks or electro tracks with a couple of samples here and there, chopped in. It wasn’t like they were composing actual metal songs,” Ágreda points out. “Ministry were pioneers, but that was still metal, that wasn’t ‘club’ music. It was the same thing with Atari Teenage Riot. I love both of those bands. What I’m trying to do is take Zardonic even further than before.”
The eOne Music debut of Zardonic accomplishes that very goal, with confident force. “We’ve worked hard to keep that exact needlepoint – something that works very well in the clubs, but when you play it at home, it takes on a whole new dynamic.”
It’s that brilliant blend behind the burgeoning fervor for Zardonic around the world. Whether performing for 10,000 people in Russia, headlining festivals across South America, dominating Europe and Japan, Zardonic represents an immediate yet timeless musical apex striking a nerve across nationalities and false boundaries of any kind.