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ZAO's line-up has proven to be almost as turbulent as the unique brand of music the band offers. Since their inception ZAO have sought to defy the critics mixing down tuned Death Metal with harsh tempo changes, acoustic passages and waves of feedback. All this overlaid with menacingly guttural and eerie whispered vocals extolling the band's Christian virtues.

For many years the only core remaining member of the band was drummer Jesse Smith. ZAO's original incarnation seeing Smith joined by vocalist Eric Reeder, guitarist Roy Goudy and bassist Mic Cox. Debut product would be a four song 1994 demo billed 'Conflict', followed up by a split outing in collaboration with OUTCAST, 'The Ties That Bind' and a further split effort shared with THROUGH AND THROUGH. Their first full-length effort, 'All Else Failed', surfaced on Steadfast Records in 1995. Second guitarist Ron Gray had joined up prior to signing to Tooth And Nail Records in September of 1996 to cut the album 'The Splinter Shards The Birth Of Separation', released in April 1997. Reeder would be supplanted by Shawn Jonas and Cox by Kevin Moran.

Prior to the release of May 1998's 'Where Blood And Fire Bring Rest', ZAO split asunder as the entire band upped and left Smith. The undaunted drummer regrouped with a fresh new entity under the ZAO banner consisting of vocalist Daniel Weyrandt and guitarists Russ Cogdell and Brett Detar. A later recruit, Rob Horner on bass, brought the band back up to full strength.

ZAO's 1999 album 'Liberate Te Ex Infernis (Save Yourself From Hell)' proved to be a concept affair based upon five cycles of Dante's 'Inferno'. Both guitarists would drift away to create new acts with Cogdell founding LOS CAPITINOS and Detar THE JULIANA THEORY.

In December of 2000 Weyrandt opted out of ZAO to forge the Grindcore band THEY THAT KILL THEIR MASTERS.

ZAO would sign to the German label Century Media for the release of their Barry Poynter produced 2001 album, simply titled 'Self-Titled'. ZAO now stood at a quartet of Smith, Horner, guitarist Scott Melinger and former ENTRUST vocalist Cory Darst.

News emerged in the spring of 2001 that Smith was involved in a twin drummer collaboration billed as AMERICAN SPECTATOR in union with COALESCE members singer Sean Ingram and drummer James Dewees together with TFU personnel bassist Don Clark and guitarist Ryan Clark.

ZAO meantime toured America in March with support from BOYWUNDER and geared up for summer shows alongside LIVING SACRIFICE. The band would take up a US headlining trek in May 2004 with support coming at various stages from REMEMBERING NEVER, MISERY SIGNALS, SCARLET and TWELVE TRIBES.

The band formed up a package billing comprising IF HOPE DIES, FEAR BEFORE THE MARCH OF FLAMES and THE AGONY SCENE for US tour dates in January 2005. However, bassist Sean Koschick decided to quit the band in order to further his education. Gigs in March, dubbed the 'City Of Champions' tour, saw a road alliance with SINAI BEACH, THE JULIANA THEORY and OPEN HAND. Another new drummer, Jeff Gretz citing a tradition with CONELRAD, ZOMBI, THE PAY TOILETS and St. Louis' YOWIE, enrolled in the summer.

The band gave themselves no respite, subsequently announcing shows partnered with CEPHALIC CARNAGE, TERROR and SHADOWS FALL. US touring found the band forging part of the roving 'Strhess Fest' in union with BLEEDING THROUGH, DARKEST HOUR, MARTYR A.D., and FIGHT PARIS commencing early July. In September ZAO maintained the road ethic, hooking up with THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, UNEARTH and A LIFE ONCE LOST.

The band utilised Chicago's Electrical Audio studio in January 2006 to commence tracking 'The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here' with fabled producer Steve Albini. ZAO, TRIVIUM, DEVILDRIVER and IN FLAMES pooled their talents for a US tour kicking off that same month. The 'Under The Gun' tour of the USA would be announced for April, the group hooking up with REMEMBERING NEVER, MADBALL, SCARLET and THE BANNER for this run. However, the band was forced off this jaunt when Daniel Weyandt broke four bones in his left-hand. The band then scheduled June 2006 US dates in alliance with DEMON HUNTER, BECOMING THE ARCHETYPE and AUGUST BURNS RED.

Guitarist Russ Cogdell returned to the ranks in January 2007.

The album 'Awake?' was recorded in four locations, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Encinitas, California and San Marcos, California, for issue in May 2009.

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