HIDDEN GEM: Zao – Liberate te ex Inferis

Zao released their album Liberate te ex Inferis in August 1999. This album truly cemented them as innovators and influencers of the metalcore sub-genre.
The album’s Latin title translates to “save yourself from hell”.

Zao is famous for having a revolving door of band members, but the men who recorded this album are seen as the core of the band. Liberate te ex Inferis features Dan Weyandt on vocals, Jesse Smith on drums, Rob Horner on bass, and Scott Mellinger & Russ Codgell on guitar.

The album starts off with an “Intro” that really sets the mood for the rest of the album to come. The eerie tone of the slow opening notes played on guitar followed by a slow beat by the drums and bass. The track crescendos near the end to begin to set us up for all hell to break loose on the next track, “Savannah”.

“Savannah” brings an all out metal assault with Dan’s frightening vocals leading the attack. The songs lyrics deal with an adult film actress named Savannah who was badly injured in a car accident and took her own life because of her disfigurement. This song has two breakdown sections that are both really heavy parts to the song. The first starts about 45 seconds into the song where Dan tells us to “Look inside the broken shell to see the broken heart”. The second is at the end of the song and starts off with just the bass and lyrics that say, “The machine it falls apart and when it’s cut it bleeds. The machine bleeds. She was alive.” “Savannah” is my favorite song on this record and Zao could not have picked a better song to follow the intro.

“Autopsy” is the shortest and fasted played song on the album. The song asks for someone to come take away pain and fill the void inside and asks, “Are you that someone?” Great lyrics by Dan Weyandt.

“If These Scars Could Speak” is the first song I heard from Zao. It was put out on a compilation CD from their record label. The song starts off with acoustic guitar then proceeds into the heaviness. The acoustic guitar appears again in an interlude in the song with some spoken word vocals. The lyrics are about a girl who was raped.


I feel the next three songs on the album, “Ghost Psalm”, “Desire the End”, and “Dark Cold Sound” are some of the least talked about tracks on the album. This trio of songs are completely awesome to me though. These three songs all have the best guitar riffs on the album, in my opinion. I especially love the guitar in “Dark Cold Sound”. The riffs accompany the the tone of lyrics well.

“Skin Like Winter” is one of Zao’s most popular songs. It appeared prior to this album on a split CD with the band Training for Utopia (who had some members go on to form Demon Hunter). This song has a great opening riff and the lyrics deal with hypocrisy. I love the lyric, “Exchange your blessings for deception’s good night kiss.”

“Kathleen Barbara” continues on with excellent guitar work from Scott Mellinger and Russ Codgell. The memorable lyric here is “Your spirit dies from the inside”.

The closing track on the album is an instrumental called “Man in Cage Jack Wilson”. It’s similar in style to the into of the album where it has a slow guitar part and the drums really drive the track. A fitting end to an excellent album.

Liberate te ex Inferis was released on a limited edition vinyl album in 2011 with new cover art because the eye liner and nail polish on the original just isn’t cool. It’s a highly sought after collectible for Zao fans.

This album is a great metalcore classic when the sub genre was really still in its formation. Jesse Smith’s drumming is really interesting to listen to. It’s not the typical double based filled drumming you hear in metalcore today. I know some cringe at the term metalcore nowadays, but back in 1999 when this album was released it was not the “whiny pop/girl metal all the kids listen too”. This is innovative and ground breaking material.

Listen to “Savannah” here:

Zao will be releasing their new album The Well Intentioned Virus on December 9th via the band’s own newly formed record label Observed/Observer Recordings. Pre-orders for the album are up now. This is Zao’s first album since 2009’s Awake?.


Check out more from Zao on the Facebook page and pre-order the new album from the links below.

Zao Facebook



Chief Of Operations, 31, lives in North VA but grew up in PA, married, baseball and metal. Kiss, Megadeth, Mötley Crüe, King Diamond, Mayhem, Mortification, Poison, P.O.D., Zao, King’s X, Demoniciduth, Led Zeppelin