Track Premiere: Zao – “Croatoan”

For metalcore fans, Pennsylvania’s Zao is an institution, carrying their own banner many years before the sound broke in the early 2000s. And as the band soldiers on in 2021, Decibel is pleased to present “Croatoan,” the lead single from the band’s upcoming new album, out on April 9.

The song is equal parts heavy and menacing, and dreamy and entrancing. And this fits perfectly with the mission the band set for itself for their sound this time around. Here’s how the band describes the background of the song, and it’s inspirations that run deep into American colonial history:

“In 1587 a group of 115 English colonists arrived at Roanoke Island off the coast of what is now North Carolina. The group was led by their governor John White who later sailed back to England to gather more supplies. White and his ship were subsequently caught up in a war with Spain for three years. Upon finally returning to the colonies, White discovered that every single person from the initial journey, including his wife and children, were gone without a trace. The only clue left behind was a wooden post with a single word carved into it: “Croatoan”.  The whereabouts of the settlers are unsolved to this day.”

Vocalist Dan Weyandt says that “Based off its origin and without clear definition, the word ‘Croatoan’ embodies an unsettling feeling of helplessness to me. This song is a vehicle for that feeling and relates it back to dissociation and being lost in strange dimensions and dreams.” The band’s drummer, Jeff Gretz, goes on to elaborate that the song “shaped the world that the rest of the record lived in: ethereal dread.” From a guitar-driven standpoint, Scott Mellinger notes “I wanted to write a super-simple, heavy, plodding part. The first riff sounds like something is crawling towards you and you can’t get away.”

Feeling sufficiently terrified? I for one am pleased that a band is mining this subject matter, as historical anomalies are an unexplored realm for much of metal. Check out the song below. The album will be available for pre-orders via the band’s Bandcamp page, or via Holy Mountain Printing.