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Music / Zao

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Zao is an American Metalcore band formed in 1993. They began their career playing hardcore punk, but the original lineup almost completely disbanded after their second album. The sole remaining member was drummer Jesse Smith, who kept the name and recruited a new roster. With the new members came new musical influences. Other bands before them had fused elements of hardcore and metal, but Zao's music (particularly the albums Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest and Liberate Te Ex Infernis) proved to be tremendously influential on modern Metalcore. While they never quite reached the same level of commercial success as many of the bands they influenced, they are often considered one of the Trope Codifiers of the Metalcore genre.


Zao now has no original members remaining, after the departure of Jesse Smith in 2004. Longtime members Dan Weyandt (vocals), Scott Mellinger (guitar), and Russ Cogdell (guitar) are often seen as the "core" of the band's modern incarnation.

Current Members

  • Dan Weyandt (vocals, 1997-)
  • Russ Cogdell (guitar, 1997-2000, 2002-2008, 2010-)
  • Scott Mellinger (guitar, clean vocals, 1999-)
  • Marty Lunn (bass, 2005-)
  • Jeff Gretz (drums, 2005-)

Notable Past Members

  • Jesse Smith (drums, 1993-2004)
  • Eric Reeder (vocals, 1993-1995)
  • Roy Goudy (guitar, 1993-1997)
  • Mic Cox (bass, 1993-1997)
  • Shawn Jonas (vocals, 1995-1997)
  • Brett Detar (guitar, 1997-1999)
  • Rob Horner (bass, 1999-2004)
  • Josh Ashworth (live vocals, 2003-2004)


  • All Else Failed (1995)
  • The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation (1997)
  • Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest (1998)
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  • Liberate Te Ex Infernis (1999)
  • (Self Titled) (2001)
  • Parade of Chaos (2002)
  • All Else Failed (re-recording, 2003)
  • The Funeral of God (2004)
  • The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here (2006)
  • Awake? (2009)
  • The Well-Intentioned Virus (2016)
  • The Crimson Corridor (2021)

Tropes associated with Zao

  • Artistic License: The title Liberate Te Ex Infernis is supposed to mean "Free yourself from Hell", but the Latin is grammatically incorrect. It should be either "Libera Te Ex Infernis" or "Liberate Vos Ex Infernis".
  • Black and Nerdy: Russ.
  • Break-Up Song:
    • "5 Year Winter"
    • The final track from their latest album, "I Leave You In Peace", has vocalist/lyricist Dan Weyandt examining the various factors that drew him to, and eventually away from, Christianity.
  • Christian Metal: They began their career as an explicitly Christian band. Defining their sound as "Christ-centered hardcore", the majority of their lyrics focused on God and spirituality. After the departure of most of the original roster and the addition of mainstays Dan Weyandt, Russ Cogdell and Scott Mellinger, Zao began moving in a different direction, both musically and lyrically. While many of their lyrics were still noticeably Christian, it was in a darker, more introspective way, and they also focused on other topics such as personal struggles, broken relationships, and social commentary. As of 2015, only one member of the band (Lunn) continues to identify as Christian. Despite all of this, it's unlikely that they will ever totally shake their association with the Christian music scene.
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  • Concept Album: The Funeral of God tells a story in which God, weary with the path humanity has chosen for itself, decides to leave the the world. Society quickly degenerates into war and destruction, and mankind eventually decides to change their ways, waiting for God to return.
  • Cover Version: They've covered "Black Coffee" by Black Flag
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Liberate Te Ex Infernis featured more minimalistic production, more brutal and creepy riffs, and Dan's Carcass -influenced shrieks, which can at times be genuinely unsettling. The band has later said that the album's sound was heavily inspired by Neurosis.
    • As a whole, they are often considered to be this compared to many of the metalcore bands that came after them. As Metal Hammer UK put it:
    "If the melodic end of the genre has been taken by Killswitch Engage then the extreme end of the Kingdom belongs to Zao. No question."
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Jesse Smith is actually the person on the cover of Liberate
  • Eagle Land: Songs like "Kingdom of Thieves" and "American Sheets on the Deathbed" definitely portray America as a Type 2.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: "The Host Has Bared Its Teeth".
  • Lead Bassist: Dan was briefly this in the early 2000's, handling both vocals and bass at their live shows before they hired a new bassist.
  • Meaningful Name: Their name is derived from the Greek word for "alive" or "to have life".
  • New Sound Album: Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest is the most prominent example, marking their shift from hardcore to metalcore. Most of their albums since then have featured tweaks and changes to their sound, though not fully crossing over into different genres. (Self Titled), for instance, includes electronic and industrial elements, while The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here has Grindcore and Black Metal influences.
  • Non-Indicative Name: No, The Funeral of God is not actually about God dying. Rather, it's about God finally giving up on humanity and leaving them to their own devices.
  • Protest Song: "Free the Three" protests the imprisonment of the West Memphis Three, three men who were convicted (many believe falsely) of murder in 1993. After their release from prison in 2011, the song was retired from Zao's live set.
  • Revolving Door Band: They've had a lot of lineup changes. However, from 2005 onward, the roster has remained pretty consistent.
  • Self-Titled Album: Somewhat of a subversion. (Self Titled) isn't actually called "Zao", the title of the album is literally "Self Titled".
  • Soprano and Gravel: Starting with The Funeral of God, Scott Mellinger has begun to compliment Dan's harsh vocals with clean vocals, mostly on the choruses.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Violet", the final track from Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest, is a sombre piano ballad.

"Burn it down and walk away."