Zao “The Crimson Corridor” Review

The Crimson Corridor
Deathwish Inc.
Released: April 9, 2021

Although Zao have been busy releasing remixes and extended plays as well as… Nintendo cartridges, The Crimson Corridor is the groups first full-length release in more than five years.

Eleven songs that ring it at just shy of the hour mark, all of them deeply complex will a thousand ideas explored throughout. Zao have created a beast of an album. This time though, Zao have seemingly focused themselves less on on an overkill of riffs and more on the soundscape as a whole. Atmosphere. Ambience. Aspects of art that are often overlooked – especially in a genre of music that revels in extremity. Feeling is often lost when musicians opt for over-the-top, but on The Crimson Corridor, there is balance. Between the barrage of notes, there is still space for melody and structure. Dissonance coupled with well thought-out structures that fall back into dirges and slower passages or eerie peacefulness. Its strength is truly in its diversity, and more so its powerful ability to stir emotions.

As the album progresses, the experimental elements gradually increase. The slower, bleak aspects. Solemn yet soulful cleanly sung passages. By the time Lost Star and The Web have concluded, despite being separate tracks, a feeling of euphoria is emitted. It works perfectly for this recording but equally well as a soundtrack to all that is happening these days, too. Like a rising phoenix, destroyed by fire yet still rising from the smoldering ashes. The hope we all need to find to rise from the devastation of a global pandemic. The Crimson Corridor is the sound of the times.

In the three decades and counting that Zao have been a band, albeit with a large turn-over rate – no longer containing a sole original member, they have endured change and evolutions as musicians – I truly hope this is a path they continue to explore, as I thoroughly enjoy what they’ve created here with The Crimson Corridor. Majestic.

See Also: The Damn Truth “Now Or Nowhere” Review

“The headspace I was in while writing this material was very dark,” says guitarist Scott Mellinger. “I was dealing with loss on a few different fronts. It was overwhelming and I think that’s why the material sounds so oppressive.” And it certainly does feel oppressive. Also depressive, but with a glowing sense of hope. Light at the end of a very long tunnel. Surely, in these times, we can all relate to that.

Delayed greatly, like so much art and everything and anything else we used to call normal, thanks to a sweeping global pandemic unlike anything we’ve witnessed in the last century. Zao spent that year in isolation digging even more into the music to see what else could be done to make the music the surreal horror landscape that they had initially set out to achieve. From the photography that accompanies it, to the music and lyrical content. With all that has happened globally in that time, is there anything that could be more fitting? After all, we have all basically bore witness to a real-life horror film, have we not? Steven King himself could not have penned a more claustrophobic or near cataclysmic story.

According to drummer Jeff Gretz “We spent more time crafting the world these songs exist in, I think, more than any other Zao record prior,” explains drummer Jeff Gretz. “It’s definitely our most produced record. Not in a polished way, but in a layered way. We spent a lot of time thinking about the space around the notes and the ghosts that live in those negative spaces.” Ripe with intricacies, that appear to reveal themselves more and more with each listening, The Crimson Corridor is a truly deep body of work. Some subtly, others glaringly obvious.

This finely tuned piece of art can be purchased from Deathwish Inc. on a double black vinyl LP, two different limited red versions, or as a Compact Disc. If digital is your thing, then head on over to the Zao bandcamp page. They have cassette tapes too. Don’t get me started on that though, I’ll talk you into a headache. 

For Fans Of: Underoath, Converge, Poison The Well
Track Listing:

01. Into The Arms Of Dread
02. Ship Of Theseus
03. Croatoan
04. The Final Ghost
05. R.I.P.W.
06. The Crimson Corridor
07. Transitions
08. Nothing’s Form
09. Creator/Destroyer
10. Lost Star
11. The Web