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Zao Biography

Last updated: 08/28/2011 12:00:00 PM

Jesse Smith - drums
Scott Mellinger - guitar
Rob Horner - bass
Cory Darst - vocals

The best bands continually reinvent themselves, making art that represents them uniquely yet stays relevant to their fans. Over the past 4 years ZAO has been one of those bands, remaining neither lyrically stagnant nor allowing themselves to be defined by a genre or scene that forces bands that play aggressive music to conform or be choked out by some pseudo-macho metal mentality.

ZAO's new record, simply entitled "(Self-Titled)", once again finds the band challenging their art and inviting their listeners to follow along with them. Since first signing to Solid State Records in 1997 the band has morphed into many figures as members changed and the band continually redefined themselves. "The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation" was the ZAO's first record on Solid State and the band toured several times all over America. Life on the road and playing in front of hundreds of kids turned the young band into full time job requiring extreme dedication.

In 1998 ZAO entered the studio with an almost completely different line-up, the sole original member being Jesse Smith. Adding Dan Weyandt to vocals, and Brett Detar and Russ Cogdell to guitar turning the band into something more than the narrow term "hardcore" could define. The band wrote what some called the best record of that year, "Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest". The band spent little time dwelling in the after-glow of their creation but once again took off on the road. After relentless touring Brett Detar exited the band to work on The Juliana Theory. New guitarist Scott Mellinger and bass player Rob Horner stepped in immediately and added even more life to the band.

In 1999 ZAO once again entered the studio to record a new record entitled "Liberate te ex Inferis". Lollipop Magazine called the band's new record a "…fabulous concept album that will surely reign over the extreme music genre." Terrorizer said, "…(ZAO) whip up a musical sand storm of such terrifying intensity it could pick your bones clean in seconds…" "Liberate .." entered the CMJ Loud chart and remained in it's top 10 for many weeks. The band toured nonstop once again playing with the likes of Hatebreed, Napalm Death, Nile, Earth Crisis and many others.

2000 was another year of change for ZAO. Russ Cogdell left the band to pursue film school but the band forged ahead and entered the studio once again to record their new record. Bored with hardcore and the trend of "new metal" that was cropping up, ZAO has created their most stunning album to date. While retaining an extremely heavy sound the band has challenged themselves to push their music to a new level of intensity. Musically the band has added elements of electronics, death, grind and black metal. "I wanted to write lyrics this time that represented what I have been going through," explained vocalist Dan Weyandt, "I've always been influences by writers like Johnny Cash and Nave. Both wrote about 3 major themes: love, God and murder. In past records I had wrote about love and God, this time I wanted to cover other aspects of life as well." ZAO has once again chosen to lead rather than follow in a genre so littered with clones, posturing and fashion friendly musical trends. The band has once again proven
that they are THE forefront of heavy music.