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A staple of the annual Cornerstone festivals, Zao is perhaps the first metalcore band with roots in the Christian music scene to enjoy a credible, respected position in the mainstream realms of hardcore and metal. Their Carcass-inspired vocals have inspired a slew of imitators of their own. Multi-instrumentalist/drummer/founding member Jesse Smith has long been recognized as one of the best percussionists in heavy music. And the band's lack of apprehension about straying from proven formulas, genre restrictions, and labels of any kind is astounding. Their live performances are nearly a thing of legend in the underground, with bandmembers often flailing about, emoting, and connecting with the crowd with intense passion.

The influential Zao (Greek for "alive") began in 1996 in Parkersburg, West Virginia (later relocating to Greensburg, Pennsylvania), when Smith gathered some friends together with the intention of starting a ministry-oriented, faith-based hardcore band similar to so-called "spirit-filled" bands like Unashamed and secular acts Unbroken and Earth Crisis. He bought his first drum kit the weekend he formed the band. Their first release was a split with the band Outcast on a small Ohio label, followed by the All Else Failed full-length album. This gained the attention of Seattle's Tooth & Nail Records, which signed the band to a lengthy contract and released The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation in 1997. Zao became the flagship act for the label's hardcore-oriented Solid State imprint.

After touring for the album, Smith found himself without a lineup as every other member exited following 1997's Cornerstone Fest. Determined to press forward, he recruited guitarists Brett Detar and Russ Cogdell, and vocalist Daniel Weyandt, and without a bassist redefined the Zao sound and produced the awe-inspiring Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest, a mournful, poetic, and incisive metallic testament to perseverance and overcoming all odds. The album signaled a shift in focus from the outright preaching of Christianity to a more personalized wordplay. It also saw the band musically moving far away from their initial influences and defining themselves as a formidable entity all their own. Zao toured relentlessly behind the album's release, and in 1998 produced a split with one of their touring mates, Sacramento, California's Training for Utopia, dubbed simply Training for Utopia/Zao.

Detar left the group shortly after the EP's release to focus on his then side project the Juliana Theory. He was replaced by former Creation Is Crucifixion guitarist Scott Mellinger. Rob Horner was the next man to join the group, filling the long-vacant bass position. This lineup crafted Liberate Te Ex Inferis, a slightly more experimental yet still heavy album, in 1999. The album incorporated Neurosis-like meditations, further lyrical storytelling (including the tale of a doomed, true-to-life porn star), and flashy photography. Horner left briefly and Weyandt took over bass duties in addition to singing. Cory Darst replaced Weyandt for one tour before Horner returned. Cogdell left next and Weyandt returned, with Zao making Self-Titled in late 2000 as a four-piece and releasing it that same year. The album served as an all-new Zao mission statement, building on the band's past strengths while dipping into moody atmospherics reminiscent of Portishead, Massive Attack, or perhaps even the oft-cited Radiohead.

Shortly after the album's release, Darst replaced Weyandt full-time as an official member of the band. In 2001, Zao recorded three songs at a Seattle studio and toured with renewed vigor. In early 2002, both Horner and Darst exited the band, with Weyandt and Cogdell coming back onboard as Zao re-signed to Solid State for two more albums. Parade of Chaos appeared in July, a month before that lineup of Zao broke up. This was far from the end, however, and the band reunited for two Cornerstone performances in 2003 and was permanently back together by the year's end. (Society's Finest vocalist Joshua Ashworth briefly replaced Weyandt.) A series of demos was cut that same year for a fledgling label that never quite got off the ground, so the band was instead snatched up by Ferret. Meanwhile, the best-of album Legendary surfaced the following year via Solid State.

By now, Zao included Weyandt, Mellinger, and Cogdell alongside new recruits Shawn Koschik (bass) and Stephen Peck (drums). Together, they recorded their Ferret debut, the conceptual The Funeral of God, which was released in the summer of 2004; it earned the guys praise from the metal scene and their first airplay on MTV. Lots of touring commenced over the next two years, playing well-received sets with bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan, the Juliana Theory, and Every Time I Die. Peck made his leave in mid-2005 and was replaced on drums by Jeff Gretz in time for U.S. and U.K. dates with Bleeding Through and their stint at 2005's Warped Tour. During Warped, however, Cogdell suffered a knee injury, which ultimately caused his departure. That fall, Zao continued on as a four-piece comprising Mellinger, Weyandt, Gretz, and bassist Marty Lunn. The Steve Albini-produced The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here was next issued in the summer of 2006. Early the next year, a healed-up Cogdell rejoined Zao's ranks as Gretz left to join From Autumn to Ashes, and in 2008 the band issued their ninth studio long-player, Awake?. An unofficial five-year hiatus followed, with bandmembers focusing on side projects like Lonely Ghost Parade and Young Fox, but the group eventually returned to the studio, releasing the Xenophobe EP in 2015 and the full-length Well-Intentioned Virus the following year. ~ Ryan J. Downey
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: The Well-Intentioned Virus

1. The Weeping Vessel

2. A Well-Intentioned Virus

3. Broken Pact Blues

4. Jinba Ittai

5. Apocalypse

6. Xenophobe

7. Haunting Pools

8. Observed / Observer

9. The Sun Orbits Around Flat Earth Witch Trials

10. I Leave You In Peace


Track List: L'aiguille

1. L'aiguille

2. Moutambou

3. N'Koumbi

4. Chérie Ani

5. Ella a Deux Diables

6. Ze T'aime

7. Mon Enfant

8. Nsimba Kouani

9. Mouche

10. Virginité

11. Mama Na Bana

12. Give Me Some Love


Track List: The 2nd Era

Disc 1

1. Lies Of Serpents, A River Of Tears

2. To Think Of You Is To Treasure An Absent Memory

3. A Fall Farewell

4. March

5. Ember

6. Ravage Ritual

7. Fifteen Rhema

8. For A Fair Desire

9. The Latter Rain

10. Violet

Disc 2

1. Intro

2. Savannah

3. Autopsy

4. If These Scars Could Speak

5. Ghost Psalm

6. Desire The End

7. Dark Cold Sound

8. Skin Like Winter

9. Kathleen Barbra

10. Man In Cage Jack Wilson

Disc 3

1. Five Year Winter

2. Alive Is Dead

3. A Tool To Scream

4. Witchunter

5. Trashcanheads (Keyboard Cowards)

6. The Race Of Standing Still

7. FJL

8. The End Of His World

9. The Dreams That Don't Come True

10. At Zero (Simeon Simmons)


Track List: Awake?

1. 1,000,000 Outstretched Arms Of Nothing

2. Entropica

3. The Eyes Behind The Throne

4. Human Cattle Masses Marching Forward

5. Romance Of The Southern Spirit

6. What Will You Find?

7. Awake?

8. Quiet Passenger Pt. 1

9. Reveal

10. Quiet Passenger Pt. 2/The World Caved In


Track List: The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here

1. Cancer Eater

2. Physician Heal Thyself

3. Everything You Love Will Soon Fly Away

4. It's Hard Not To Shake With A Gun In Your Mouth

5. Kingdom Of Thieves

6. Killing Time 'til It's Time To Die

7. There Is No Such Thing As Paranoia

8. Pudgy Young Blondes With Lobotomy Eyes

9. My Love, My Love (We've Come Back From The Dead)

10. American Sheets On The Deathbed

11. A Last Time For Everything


Track List: The Funeral Of God

1. Breath Of The Black Muse

2. The Rising End (The First Prophecy)

3. The Last Revelation (The Last Prophecy)

4. The Last Song From Zion

5. Live... From The Funeral of God

6. The Lesser Lights Of Heaven

7. In Times Gone Past

8. Praise The War Machine

9. Truly, Truly, This Is The End

10. I Lay Sleepless In My Grave

11. Psalm of the City of the Dead


Track List: Legendary

1. Skin Like Winter (Split Ep Album Version)

2. Five Year Winter (Self Titled Album Version)

3. A Fall Farewell (When Blood And Fire Bring Rest Album Version)

4. Suspend/Suspension (Parade Of Chaos Album Version)

5. Walk On By, Walk On Me (Split Ep Album Version)

6. Ravage Ritual (When Blood And Fire Bring Rest Album Version)

7. Times Of Separation (Splinter Shards The Birth Album Version)

8. Savannah (Liberate Album Version)

9. The Race Of Standing Still (Self Titled Album Version)

10. Free The Three (Parade Of Chaos Album Version)

11. Angel Without Wings (Parade Of Chaos Album Version)

12. Ember (When Blood And Fire Bring Rest Album Version)

13. Ghost Psalm (Liberate Album Version)

14. Trashcanheads (Keyboard Cowards) (Self Titled Album Version)

15. Icarus Complex, The (Legendary Album Version)

16. One Last Time (Legendary Album Version)

17. All Dressed Up (With No Place To Go) (Legendary Album Version)


Track List: Parade Of Chaos

1. The Buzzing

2. Suspend / Suspension

3. Parade Of Chaos

4. Angel Without Wings

5. Killing Cupid

6. Free The Three

7. Man In The Womb

8. A Pirates Prayer

9. The Ballad Of Buddy Bigsby

10. How Are The Weak Free


Track List: Self Titled

1. 5 Year Winter

2. Alive Is Dead

3. A Tool To Scream

4. Witchhunter

6. The Race Of Standing Still

7. FJL

8. The End Of His World

9. The Dreams That Don't Come True


Track List: Liberate Te Ex Inferis

1. Intro (Liberate Album Version)

2. Savannah (Liberate Album Version)

3. Autopsy (Liberate Album Version)

4. If These Scars Could Speak (Liberate Album Version)

5. Ghost Psalm (Liberate Album Version)

6. Desire The End (Liberate Album Version)

7. Dark Cold Sound (Liberate Album Version)

8. Skin Like Winter (Split Ep Album Version)

9. Kathleen Barbra (Liberate Album Version)

10. Man In Cage Jack Wilson (Liberate Album Version)


Track List: Where Blood And Fire Bring Rest

1. Lies Of Serpents, A River Of Tears

2. To Think Of You Is To Treasure An Absent Memory

3. A Fall Farewell

4. March

5. Ember

6. Ravage Ritual

7. Fifteen Rhema

8. For A Fair Desire

9. The Latter Rain

10. Violet


Track List: The Splinter Shards The Birth

1. Times Of Separation

2. Surrounds Me

3. Exchange

4. Particle

5. Repressed

6. In Loving Kindness

7. Endure

8. The Children Cry For Help

9. Resistance

10. Song 1


Track List: All Else Failed

1. Resistance (2003 Version)

2. In Loving Kindness (2003 Version)

3. Endure (2003 Version)

4. Growing In Grace (2003 Version)

5. Foresight (2003 Version)

6. Ps77 (2003 Version)

7. Exchange (2003 Version)

8. All Else Failed (2003 Version)


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The new album The Well-Intenti o n e d Virus is the best Zao Album. Burning up the download charts. #1 in Finland today. Beating out Adele.
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Zao and living sacrifice are the godfather to underground metal for me while growing up way back in 97' when I was 12 going into the 6th grade.
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Cannot wait for their new album, The new 2 song demo was so good.
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Too bad they don't have a good screamer...w a y too high for my taste. Kinda freaky.
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The only albums I like are splinter and blood and fire. The rest doesn't really hold up over time imo
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Awesome band! Saw them live at Ichthus in '04
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Best metal band hands down!!!
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Back be4 metal core was all garabge
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Awesome band :) glad I came across them when I did
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There is no walking away frome that flame man it is all consuming
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Burn it down and walk away
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That is my faith not a religion
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I am anti religious to I just believe is GOD and JESUS CHRIST and want to be more like him and les like me because that is the best way to live and that isent a man made religion that is the truth good band by the way
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braincandle1 9 7 9
Where Blood & Fire Bring Rest + Liberate ex, such amazing albums, still sound fresh today in 2014. Something about Dan +Jesse + Russ brings a sound & vibe like no one else..
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I exposed to this band while I was in a Christian rehab and I have always loves these guys even though I was only allowed to listen to Christian music for over a year and already has deep roots in secular metal! But I was a teenager in the 90's so metal core and hardcore was the scene and what we all played! They're unique no one sounds quite like them! Also I am a very anti religious person and I think their lyrics were absolutely poetic !
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Was a huge zao fan for years, my band opened when blood and fire brings rest came out, very rad nite!!! Not to big on the newer stuff
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Not a huge fan of old metalcore like in the 90's, but still not all that bad :)
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im from outside greensburg and must say that i love everything Zao does. have seen them a dozen times live and they always bring mad raw energy. one of my all time favs.
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Have to say the first three albums are Zao at their best. Funeral of God is decent but lacks that energy they brought with previous records.
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Zao helped cultivate much of the new bands you hear today. Props to such a influential group.
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The Fear is what keeps us here is the only album I'd consider bad from Zao. It was too much like Symphony in Peril.
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very heavy death metalish.kin d a of a slow Napalm death.
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Absolute CRAP; 5 seconds of listening to this was 5 seconds too long.
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zao is the soundtrack to half of my life. I'm not religious in anyway but everything about this band is perfect, been listening since The Splinter Shards the Birth of Seperation. Come check out, www.myspace. c o m / t h e e e l f i l e s good old vt abstract poetic hip hop.
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All these years since then. Seems like a different life almost-Jesse , Dan, Russ, Rob-you all rock! I miss you guys and loved the times that we had! Zao still is awesome! I remember the start up shows at the Vienna community building in the mid 90's. No matter how music has changed your music still sounds so current even today! Thank you.
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Hey I use to play in the L.A. DeathGrind scene with a huge influence in bands like Napalm Death,Suffoc a t i o n , C a n n i b a l Corpse, Deicide and of coarse the almighty and all powerful SLAYER. Im trying to ween myself from the secular and more into the christian deathgrind. What bands besides Impending doom and sleeping Giant are out there with the stlye that I like to listen to thanks the Jayness
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burn it down and walk away.
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I have listened to Zao for a long time and they are one of the best bands I have listened to. They can really play with the best of these other bands out there. They are definitely the best at what they do and I especially like their inventive and creativity in their music.
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I have followed Zao since the beginning and first saw them perform with Darst (sad show). They are definitely one of the most influential bands to break into the hardcore scene and have paved the way for Christian metal bands. If you have never been to a show it is a must! I have yet to find another band with so much intensity and passion put into their music.
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Zao is my absolute favorite band ever. If you can't understand why people would listen to them then you haven't listened enough. Probably the single most inventive and experimental hardcore/met a l bands to ever walk the mean streets of planet earth.
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Whoa, I loved this band in high school. They're still pretty alright.
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Come back to San Diego please.....
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very deep and dark, but not evil. well put, fellish beast ;)
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Probably my favorite band of all time. These guys are so freaking original! Each album is totally different, but is still Zao. I don't know how that works, but it does. Amazing lyrics as well. Very deep and dark, but not evil.
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I am diggin the new Metal shred from these guys. They have changed so many times since Through and Through, but always great material to slam in my car while driving...

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Human Cattle Masses Marching Forward and 1,000,000 Outstreched Arms of Nothing are by far the best songs on the new cd but Entropica, Eyes Behind the Throne, Romance of the Southern Spirit, and Quiet Passenger Pts. 1 and 2 are amazing too. not too fond of the title track. All in all, Zao (Greek for Alive) doesnt fail to disappoint in any way. Their Christian message isnt going away, theyre just more vague than before thats all.
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My favorite metalcore artist. Their lyrics actually mean something, but yet are not hypocritical or judgmental. They preach a theology of salvation, not judgment.
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i agree shadochief, i wholehearted l y agree...LONG L I V E FRIKKIN' AWESOME CHRISTIAN METALCORE!!!
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perhaps the greatest metalcore band ever created
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they get way better musically on the 04 and 06 albums
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Zao is a band of such epic history that it seems worthy to note that none of the lineups on any of their albums are identical. No original member of the band remains in the band today. This band has had a terrifically unstable past but refuses to go down. No one can doubt their enormous influence on metal in general. They even got "Praise the War Machine" on MTV. The War Machine stands for exactly that: a war machine. The song is meant to be ironic.
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Their first work- Hardcore metal. Their later work- Something non-defineab l e . Bottom line- They kick a$$. Awesome Live as well....
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You rookies. You don't even know what metalcore is.
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Yeah. Who the heck controls this content? Hope it doesnt get to be like Wikipedia junk....
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Notice how they don't have Blood and Fire or Liberate up? This kind of music didn't exist for most people before Killswitch and As I Lay Snoring.
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Death-Metalc o r e at its best. Awesome LIVE, alot of effort and emotion.
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ZAO kicks butt I love their sound, the vocals, driving guitars and the pounding drums!!! No offense Will but WHAT is the WAR MACHINE!?!? I'm Canfuzd!! Is it GOD???
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So unique and powerful. makes you think about all the things that matter. We praise you war machine.

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