THEPRP REVIEWS

Zao The Crimson Corridor

2021 Observed/Observer Recordings

A long hall.

Zao - The Crimson Corridor

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For a band whose existence is inching ever closer towards 30 years, Zao find themselves with no shortage of ferocity. Since re-emerging as an independent artist from a several year absence of sorts back in 2015, the group have been engaging in a fearlessly self-empowered sonic campaign that has proven creatively adventurous, while simultaneously delivering some of their strongest songs to date.

On this twelfth studio album, their ascendant arc smashes directly into the darkest recesses of the mind of vocalist Dan Weyandt. Serving as your tormented guides, he and his bandmates embark on a funereal expedition into the depression, anxiety and anger that threatens to consume the most tortured of souls. While not conceptual in nature, that darker side of mental health is a recurring theme that Weyandt in particular harnesses to unleash a wearying downpour of viciousness and despair.

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This album feeds on gloom and lashes out with grievous intent. The pace is meticulously sludgy and lurching, while the sonic attack sounds like Carcass attempting field surgery with intentionally dulled tools. Elegiac spoken word and melodic passages permit the music to take flight, but little distance is gained as the part changes remain oppressed by the weight of the world surrounding them.

Ingeniously, this record finds the band affirming their own existence on the seething “Ship Of Theseus“. Taking its name from a thought experiment dating back thousands of years, they repurpose a paradox that questions whether an object that has had all of its original components replaced can still be considered the same object.

Zao haven’t featured a founding member since the late 90s, but that hasn’t stopped them from having resoundingly taken ownership of what they have become, especially with this fiercely crushing track.

Elsewhere, “R.I.P.W.” finds the outfit adding gnarled edges to a spiraling riff that brings to mind the likes of Tool or even The Ocean. That it ends on a cough doesn’t sound so much thematic as it does a statement of confidence.

In some ways the songs on this album could be seen as having a lateral momentum. The part changes offer dynamic reprieve, but remain tethered to their counterparts. You may escape the ground, but you’re never going to get your head in the clouds.

The lingering glimpses of celestial grace found in the sprawling 10 minute plus closer “The Web” are about your only real exemption from this anguished onslaught. As such, whether or not you can endure the whole journey may be a point of concern.

The weight accumulates rapidly and the lumbering pace and lack of brighter dynamics feel oppressive by design. You may also be a bit disappointed that the searing groove found on the blistering single “Ship Of Theseus” isn’t wholly prevalent elsewhere.

But you can’t deny that the band have stayed true to their vision here, sacrificing nothing for the sake of the listener. There’s no angelic melodies coming to free you from the gnashing torment that awaits. The illumination provided here is bleak at best, shone only through faint glimmers. There’s also no preachy feel-good lesson or prevalent message of self-betterment to be found here on the surface level either.

The Crimson Corridor” feels as though it was crafted to let those suffering and struggling know that they are not alone by its existence. A blackened trudge through misery and despair that shows that even the most despondent moments one must endure can at least be put towards a constructive purpose, should you be willing to pass through those darkened doors.

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