Modern prog/post-metal instrumental music has never been stronger, especially in Chicago where bands such as Pelican, Electric Hawk, Russian Circles and Zaius all share a bit of the spotlight. With plenty of venues in the city that welcome acts who play original material, it’s a blessing for a band like Zaius.
“There is really a tight-knit community, and we all know each other,” guitarist Dann Dolce says. “Everyone welcomes other bands pretty well, and the promoters are really cool. There are so many great venues that have really great sound, like smaller venues that aren’t too big. [We] aren’t stuck playing in VFW halls on the floor, we’re playing on stages with sound guys. And there are [also] so many great Chicago bands out there, too.”
Dolce, along with fellow guitarist Ian McConnell, bassist Jeremy Bellen and drummer Mike Imbordino, didn’t initially plan on being strictly an all-instrumental band when they first formed in 2010. “We tried [working with] vocalists before, but it seemed like they had a hard time putting vocals to our music,” Dolce explains. “So we just thought it was cool [not to have one]. We like instrumental bands, so we just thought we’d keep it going.”
Zaius weaves meticulous melodies with technical precision on its debut album, Of Adoration, released Oct. 6 on Prosthetic Records. Throughout the eight expansive tracks, the foursome delivers instrumental bliss that relies on soaring guitar melodies and vibrant hooks, which act as a substitute in the place of vocals. There are fewer guitar-shreds and instead more storytelling techniques throughout the song structures. “We wanted it to feel like a song — we wanted to tell a story,” says Dolce. “Sometimes you have to go a little longer to get your point across with the writing, to give it some ups and downs and evoke emotions with hooks.”
The time and thoughts put into each track are easily noticeable. Compared to its two prior EPs, All Your Friends Are Dead (2011) and Divided By Tides (2013), the band spent more time concentrating on pre-production. “We did do something different this time,” says Dolce. “With both of our EPs, we wrote most of our stuff straight live in the jam room, pushing each other to remember everything; keeping things together manually like old school. [With this album] we discovered a computer and put some software online and did some pre-production to get ideas and riffs down. It was a little easier way to write. Then we’d go back to jamming and do a mix of the two. We definitely thought it out. We didn’t just throw things together in a day.”
Recently signed to Prosthetic Records, Zaius is eager to get its name out there. “Being signed in the first place is always a privilege for a small band like us because it makes all this hard work worth it,” Dolce continues. “As a label, we’re hoping that they get our name out there. People like to hear this music that we’ve been working so hard on and hopefully enjoy it. That’s kind of what the biggest thing for us [is] and kind of what keeps us going. They’re doing promotion for us, and hopefully, we sell records, and it puts some money in their pocket.”
While holding a physical copy of the new album in your hands (order it on vinyl) it’s easy to be captivated by the stunning cover art created by Netherlands-based anthropomorphic artist, Marald Van Haasteren, who has also designed artwork for Baroness, High On Fire and Kylesa. “Ian told me to check out Marald’s artwork on Instagram, and his stuff was beautiful,” Dolce says. “It was a mix of pretty, realistic, gorgeous art. But it had a little bit of a dark side to it, kind of like our music. So the imagery fit in with the band. He’s such an excellent artist, and it was an honor to have his artwork on our album cover.”
Boasting an out of this world production and decorated with crisp, pristine clarity, Of Adoration is a stellar package. “We pretty much had these songs written before we decided to sign with Prosthetic Records,” Dolce explains. “If we had to self-release it, then that’s what it might have been. We recorded it with one of Ian’s friends in his home studio. It was comfortable because we could [go] over after work and on the weekends and split things up instead of paying big bucks for a studio. Then Chris Common mixed it. He was such a hard-worker, and he busted his ass mixing it for us.”
When it comes to future endeavors, Dolce says the band has every intention of making album No. 2 sometime soon. In the meantime, you can catch Zaius live at Reggies in Chicago Feb 6th.
Read more at Illinois Entertainer