Classic Album: Zao – Self-titled

The great thing about doing a classic review is you have a little more perspective on the album in question and it’s impact on the band and it’s place in history. If you haven’t seen Zao’s The Lesser Lights of Heaven documentary, I highly recommend it. As a fan it gives you this immense insight into one of heavy musics most influential and tumultuous bands.

Having released back to back amazing metalcore classics, Zao was in disarray. Russ was coming and going from the band. Dan had started his career as a tattoo artist and would miss shows constantly to work. Jesse was having something of a faith overhaul and really hated that his band was in PA while he still lived in West VIrginia. Rob’s status was unclear. The only constant seemed to be Scott. That future of the band was in doubt.

But “Zao” entered the studio to start their next album. It was a shell of Zao. Jesse and Scott entered the studio where the two of them got to do whatever they wanted. Jesse decided the best action to take was to do all his drum tracks on a Roland V drum, an electric kit. In the documentary Scott admits he hated the idea and would’ve spoken up but he was given freedom to do what he wanted. After the songs were done, Dan came in and laid down his vocals.

The good moments on Zao’s self-titled record far outweigh the bad. It’s not the disaster that Parade of Chaos was. But it’s not consistent. The album starts of strong. Five Year Winter is such a killer song and a great opening track. The instrumental Alive is Dead is interesting and has really nice flow. A Tool To Scream is just a classic Zao song.

But then things go down hill. Witchunter is such an odd track. It’s Jesse Smith in studio. It’s not Zao. It’s acoustic guitar and those bad V-drums and Jesse singing. Trash Can Hands just isn’t a good song. It’s not that interesting and lyrically the song is in bad taste. I believe Jesse Smith wrote the lyrics to this song and it’s his personal attack on two kids on a message board. IT’s really in poor taste.

The Race of the Standing Still is a great song. It’s an underrated Zao song and I don’t think it was ever played live, but it’s a good song. FJL is more Jesse Smith studio masturbation. It’s not Zao. The End of His World is an enjoyable song. The sung chorus… isn’t my favorite of the song. It takes the song from being an A and makes it a B. The Dreams That Don’t Come True is one of my favorite Zao songs. It’s a very haunting and depressingly beautiful song. At Zero… an ok song. Not the best way to end the record but not the worst of songs.

Dan would never tour in support of the Self-titled record. Corey Darst would take over vocals on tour for this record and although Corey was an outstanding dude and just a cool guy to hang out, he wasn’t Dan. The V drums really gave the Self-titled record a poor sound and the handful of bad tracks on this album, along with the Zao turmoil really hurt this album in the end. The songs that are good from this record are still played live and sound amazing.

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