Veteran metalcore outfit Zao has gone through so many changes throughout its three decade-plus life. The band has seen multiple changes in its lineup(none of its founding members remain today) and label homes. It has even gone from once being known among the Christian music community to just being a straight up metalcore band. All these changes would be more than enough to doom any musical act, but somehow Zao has weathered every storm and soldiered on, cementing its place in the metalcore community with 11 albums and even a number of EPs. This past Friday, the band continued to cement its reputation with its 12th album, The Crimson Corridor. Released through Observed/Observer Recordings, the 57-minute recording is heavy in terms of its musical and lyrical content, each of which will be addressed here. The recording’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed as part of the album’s overall examination. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered, the band’s latest album proves to be a work that will appeal widely among the band’s established audience base and metalcore fans in general.
The Crimson Corridor, Zao’s latest album (its 12th) is a presentation that will appeal to the band’s established audience base and metalcore fans in general. That is due in part to the album’s musical presentation. The first thing that audiences will note in examining the record’s musical presentation is that it shows the band has not lost any of its fire even now more than three decades into its life. The ferocious guitar riffs, drums, and bass pair with the familiar almost black-metal style vocal performances to mostly make this record’s arrangements engaging for the noted audiences. It is an approach that has remained specific to Zao going as far back as 1999’s Liberate To Ex Inferus. Few if any other bands in the metalcore community can say that they have such an intense sound and stylistic approach. At the same time, the band, in its current iteration, does try to take listeners in softer, more contemplative places in the music at times. ‘The Web,’ the album’s 10 minute-plus finale, is one of those moments in which the band moves in a more brooding nature. ‘Nothing’s Form’ is another of those moments. The almost whispered vocals of front man Dan Weyandt that work opposite his screams later in the song makes for such a powerful juxtaposition. ‘R.I.P.W.’ finds the band embracing what sounds like a Tool influence at some points against its more familiar post metal approach for yet another unique addition to this album. Between that arrangement, the others noted here, and the rest of the album’s entries, its overall musical presentation proves important in its own way to this recording. The heaviness of the record’s musical presentation works with the album’s equally heavy lyrical content to make for even more interest.
As has already been noted, the lyrical themes featured throughout The Crimson Corridor center on the topic of mental health. Specifically speaking, information provided about the album notes that the record’s themes focus on “depression, anxiety, and anger.” To that end, this makes the album relatable, but not something that audiences will find themselves ready to take in anytime. Listeners will have to be in a very specific mindset in order to fully appreciate the noted lyrical themes. Case in point is the lyrical theme featured in the album’s latest single, ‘Transitions.’ Information provided – again – about the album points out that the lyrical theme of ‘Transitions’ was influenced by famed writer Isaac Asimov’s quote, “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” Weyandt expanded on the quote, stating, “It’s about eternal return and my place within it.” In other words, the song’s lyrical theme is somewhat contemplative to say the least. This is illustrated in the song’s lead verse and chorus, which states, “The snapping of strings/Strange rhythms in sounds/A reminder to us that all things must end/I feel the sword of Damacles staring down at me/A flower blooms in the final act of self preservation/The mountain and the sky/They collide before the river’s eyes.” The song continues, noting, “Delusions drain us of safety/Our foundation is rotting/Creatures crawl out confused/The cycle continues/From the season of loss/To the season of life.” The song’s second verse continues in similar form with just as much metaphorical language. This is certain to generate its own share of discussion among listeners, what with its seeming existential rumination about one’s place in life, as pointed out by Weyandt. It is just one way in which the album’s heavy lyrical content proves so important to its presentation. ‘Nothing’s Form’ seems to take on human failings
While ‘Nothing’s Form’ is not necessarily an indictment of mankind for its failings, it is still a deep examination of this aspect of society. This is inferred as Weyandt sings in the song’s lead verse and single, ‘I watched the heathen plead to the sky/I watched the convert curse God as he died/I watched the ghost wandering without a guide/No form to abide/I watched perfection put on a disguise/I watched the honest speak only in lies/I watched the mirrors and saw only things I despised/That lie behind my eyes.” The displeasure at humans’ hypocrisy continues in similar fashion in the song’s similar verse with mentions of the heroes feeding “the innocent to the wolves/Laughing like fools” and of “the builders abandoning their tools.” Simply put, this comes across again as an indictment of human hypocrisy; The bad doing good and vice versa, the caring not caring, etc. It runs in its own way, with the noted overarching theme of the development of depression, anxiety, and anger. In turn, it is one more example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content. ‘The Final Ghost’ points itself out as yet another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content.
‘The Final Ghost’ seems to echo the noted theme of the development of anger by also incorporating a story about the meek becoming angry and overpowering those in power. That is inferred from the song’s lead verse, which states, “The round of robins/Hunted down the hawk/They were high on honey/From the lion’s skull/The robins’ beaks were sharpened/The hawk’s claws were not/They tore it into pieces/Singing, “Arise to fall”/The sky was screaming as it rained feathers and bones/Collective dreaming/We’re all one and alone.” The seeming statement of the less becoming angry and standing up for themselves continues in the song’s second verse, which tells the story of a mother rabbit killing a raven that tried to take her child. Audiences will be left to discover this one for themselves. Overall, the song leaves little doubt about its relation to the album’s overall theme while doing so in its own unique fashion. When it is considered with the other songs noted here and the rest of the record’s lyrical content, the overall lyrical presentation here proves itself to be Just as heavy and impacting as the album’s musical content. Even with that in mind, there is still one more item to examine here. That item is the album’s production.
The production of The Crimson Corridor is important to examine because of its impact on the album’s general effect. As has already been noted here, the musical arrangements featured throughout the album are heavy. There is a lot going on from one song to the next. Between the intense vocals and the wall of sound created through the songs’ instrumentations, there is a lot going on in each composition. Thankfully, listeners get a full impact from all involved thanks to the production. This aspect made sure that even with so much going on, the whole of each composition shines through. It is still intense overall, but that is what Zao’s established audiences and metalcore fans in general have come to expect from the band. Keeping that in mind along with the impact of the album’s lyrical and musical content, the whole of these elements makes The Crimson Corridor a powerful new offering from Zao that will appeal to the band’s established audience base and the most devoted metalcore fans. The Crimson Corridor is available along with all of Zao’s latest news at:
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