Long-running metallic hardcore chaoticists Zao are dropping their new album, The Crimson Corridor, on April 9, so we thought we’d catch up with vocalist Dan Weyandt on the eve of the album’s release to find out what five heavy albums changed his life. Read on to learn more about what albums (“In no particular order,” Weyandt stresses) influenced our man’s lyric writing, vocal style and awkward bus rides to high school.
Passover – No Retreat/Passover (split) (1996)
I first started playing in a band shortly after high school, around 1995/1996. Honestly, looking back, I just wanted to hang out with friends and write songs that sounded like “Since Birth” and “Irreconcilable” (and every other song they had on that release). Passover provided the listener with relentless waves of powerful, chaotic dissonant riffs accompanied by serpentine vocals up front and spastic barking chaos filling in the cracks (as well as an awesome array of samples/spoken word). I honestly can’t believe they never became a household name within their genre. I listened to this record more than anything else available at the time. When this was released I was playing bass and doing a lot of backup vocals. I wanted to emulate the singer’s vocal style so badly. I started my journey into vocals by practicing alongside these songs, trying to emulate them the best I could.
Black Flag – Damaged (1981)
I was in middle school when a kid I knew from a local skate spot insisted I borrow this tape and check it out. I took it home, put on my headphones and was just blown away. This record was just ugly, honest chaos delivered with a frenzied passion. It was the first time I could remember hearing heavy music where the lyrics were deeply personal and sincere. “Rise Above,” “Depression” and “Life of Pain” showed me that music could be an creative outlet to express these type of thoughts/feelings. I felt connected to it and not as alone. I thought it was awesome an album could have that kind of power. When I started writing lyrics this was something I never forgot about and something I strived to include.
Iron Monkey – Iron Monkey (1996)
In the late ’90s, after being introduced to Iron Monkey’s music via a Church of Misery split I picked up their self-titled record. After listening to this record once, Iron Monkey instantly became one of my favorite bands to date and Johnny Morrow (RIP) instantly became one of my favorite vocalists (as well as a massive influence). Johnny was insanely good. He set the bar. It was the first time I heard high-pitched vocals with a ton of power behind them, unlike their black metal counterparts. This record was a crusher way ahead of its time. Pummeling, doomy stoner sludge with the most powerful, ripping high range vocals (that could dip into gnarly mids/lows) I’ve heard to this day. This album is killer front to back but the standouts to me are “Big Loader,” “Black Aspirin” and “666 Pack.”
Neurosis – Through Silver in Blood (1996)
It was around the time I joined Zao in that I was quickly introduced to not only Neurosis but this specific album. I then learned that Neurosis is their own genre and their own experience to be had. This album was dark and heavy in ways I had never heard before. It’s like it was haunted. This sounded like what panic attacks felt like. No band can come close to creating atmosphere like Neurosis. It was a toss-up if I would list this album or Times of Grace as my favorite album from them. One of the things that tipped the scales in favor of Through Silver in Blood was Dave Edwardson’s vocal performance at the end of “Locust Star.” I can’t even put into words how that end section makes me feel. It’s like the whole song builds just to serve that moment and then explodes with uncanny power. His voice/vocals are amazing and my all-time favorite low-range vocals in any heavy band.
Slayer – Seasons in the Abyss (1990)
I have always had crippling social anxiety. High school was a nightmare. Every morning in ninth grade I would chain smoke cigarettes and listen to “War Ensemble” over and over at the bus stop trying to psych myself up to deal with the nightmare of the upcoming school day. Then, on the bus I would space out and start bobbing my head to the riffage and by the time I would realize I was doing it, people would be staring and laughing at me. I really didn’t care, though—that record made fear melt away and replaced it with adrenaline. Every song on that record slays (no pun intended). I listened to the Seasons in the Abyss tape in my car for years, until it eventually snapped from wear. Side note: I always wished back in the day Slayer would have put out a doom-centric record where everything sounded like the title track of this album.