Metal File: Zao, Mastodon, Candlemass & More In This Week's Hard News

Ten days into recording with Steve Albini, Pittsburgh post-hardcore band is almost done with new LP.

Two years ago Pittsburgh post-hardcore outfit Zao were in Chicago for a gig. Guitarist Scott Mellinger says he doesn't recall with whom but remembers that it was around the same time his band signed with Ferret Records. Before Zao took the stage, Mellinger said they were approached by a documentary filmmaker working on a project about underground music and bands.

"She told us her boyfriend recorded bands and that he liked our band," Mellinger said. "She offered us a tour of his studio and we kind of blew it off — we didn't think it was anything. Then later that night, we got a call at the club. I think [singer] Dan [Weyandt] answered the phone. And he hears, 'Hi, this is Steve Albini. If you want to tour the studio, I'll be here all night.' "

For Zao, it was sort of a shock to learn that Albini, who has worked with the Pixies, Nirvana, Neurosis and High on Fire, had even heard of them. "We were taken aback but we went there that night and found out he liked the band and was interested in what we were doing," Mellinger said. "We really wanted to do the first Ferret record with Steve, but it didn't work out. So for the second record, we knew we definitely wanted to do it with Steve."

On January 10 Zao returned to the Windy City, where they've been recording the follow-up to 2004's The Funeral of God in the engineer's studio. Surprisingly, just 10 days in, they're almost done with the entire album.

"We came here not knowing what to expect but being prepared and knowing what we wanted to do," Mellinger explained. "We rehearsed for about three months before we got here, so we knew what we wanted to sound like and what these songs were all about. So when we got here, we just started busting it out. The thing about Steve is, he records you — he doesn't produce you. He makes you what you are. You need to know who you are. He can't tell you who you are."

Most of the album was recorded live, which was something Zao wanted to do with this next record. The LP will be in stores in late May and features 11 tracks, including "Physician, Heal Thyself," "American Sheets on the Deathbed" and "It's Hard Not to Shake With a Gun in Your Mouth." The sessions will wrap before the band's upcoming tour with In Flames, Trivium and DevilDriver, which commences in Tempe, Arizona, January 25.

"A lot of records that come out today don't have life to them. They don't have that natural feeling of a band playing," he said. "This is definitely the most abrasive record we've ever done, and being able to do it live has changed a lot [on this album], because you actually get to put the energy of a song back into the song. You can really hear that on this record. It sounds like a band just destroying things, and Dan's vocal delivery sounds unhinged."

The rest of the week's metal news:

Mastodon recently shot a video for "Seabeast" at Atlanta's Madison Theatre with directors Jonathan Rej and Tom Bingham. The clip was filmed with a hand-cranked 35 mm camera and captures the look and feel of films from the 1920s and '30s. "Seabeast" chronicles the battles between Captain Ahab, Mr. Queequeg and the great whale from Herman Melville's epic "Moby Dick." The video will be the band's third from its album Leviathan, which came out in 2004. In related news a half-hour special entitled "Mastodon: The Workhorse Chronicles" will air on MTV2 on Saturday after "Headbanger's Ball." The show will feature live and behind-the-scenes footage taken directly from the band's forthcoming DVD, which hits stores February 21. ... Shadows Fall drummer Jason Bittner has been tapped to fill in for Anthrax's Charlie Benante for the last two dates of the band's current tour: Friday (January 20) in San Francisco and Saturday in Hollywood. Benante's wife Sandra gave birth to the couple's first child, Mia, on Thursday. ... Celtic Frost have signed with Century Media Records, which will release their new album Monotheist this spring. Look for the outing to include "A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh," "Drown in Ashes" and "Domain of Decay." ... Silent Civilian, featuring former Spineshank frontman Jonny Santos, have been added to Nothingface's forthcoming trek, which kicks off February 11 in Baltimore. Dates thus far run through February 26 in Kent, Ohio. ... Manowar are returning on February 27 in grand fashion — their new single, "The Sons of Odin," runs an epic 10 minutes long. The song will appear on the band's upcoming, as-yet-untitled album, which drops April 3. ...

High on Fire, Goatwhore and Watch Them Die will hit the road together starting March 30 in Concord, California. Dates run through May 6 in Santa Cruz. ... Deicide will release The Stench of Redemption, the band's first record with new guitarists Jack Owen (ex-Cannibal Corpse) and Ralph Santolla (formerly of Death and Iced Earth). An untitled demo track from the album has been posted to the band's MySpace page. ... Poison the Well, the Fall of Troy, Horse the Band and Criteria will embark on a 15-date run that starts March 21 in Pomona, California, and wraps up April 21 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. ... Imperia, which features former Trail of Tears frontman Helena Iren Michaelsen, are working with producers Christian Moos and Oliver Philipps on the band's sophomore disc, which could surface later in the year. The album is expected to feature 12 tracks. ... Byzantine have shot a video for "Jeremiad," which is from their 2005 album And They Shall Take Up Serpents. The clip was shot by director Donnie Searls late last year. The band will launch a headline tour February 9 in Nashville. Dates run through February 28 in Kent, Ohio, and then Byzantine will support Shadows Fall, Agnostic Front and Still Remains for five shows starting March 1 in New Haven, Connecticut, and ending March 5 in Poughkeepsie, New York. ... Candlemass will re-release two classic discs, Epicus Doomicus, Metallicus and Ancient Dreams, and the live album Doomed for Live February 7. The band's Epicus debut was originally released in 1986 and influenced practically every doom band that followed. Ancient Dreams came out in 1988 and was nearly as influential. Both have been remastered and feature bonus live discs. Doomed for Live captures 17 tracks recorded in 2001 during the band's reunion tour. Three more titles, Nightfall, Tales of Creation and the CD/DVD compilation Essential Doom will follow February 21. ... Children of Bodom have added 13 more shows to their upcoming tour, bringing the total to 19. The first show will still be March 18 in New Haven, but dates now run through April 10 in Anaheim, California. Chimaira and God Forbid will open all shows and Bullet for My Valentine will play select dates. Children of Bodom's latest album, Are You Dead Yet?, came out in October. ...

Eyes of Fire will release their second album, Prisons, February 7. The album was recorded in January 2005 with producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis) at Grandmaster Records in Hollywood. A video for "It All Dies Today" was directed by Gary Smithson. Eyes of Fire will begin a tour with Losa starting February 3 in Phoenix. Dates run through March 8 in West Hollywood. ... Florida death/jazz-metal pioneers Atheist have reunited for select European shows. The band will play the Evolution Festival in Brescia, Italy, on July 16 and 17, and will rock the Wacken Open Air fest in Schleswig Holstein, Germany, August 3-5. Other shows will follow. "We would like to make a great festival run and expose as many people as possible to the music we lived and died for," frontman Kelly Shaefer said. ... The Devin Townsend Band will join Opeth on a tour that launches February 15 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Shows are scheduled through February 28. Dark Tranquillity are also on the bill. Townsend's new album Synchestra comes out January 31. A special edition of the disc features a bonus DVD of the band playing live in the studio. ... Ex-Crown guitarist Marko Tervonen has finished the debut album by his new solo project Angel Blake. The one-man-band's self-titled debut will come out April 4. Tracks include "The Force," "Lycanthrope" and "Self-Terminate." In a press statement, Tervonen described the album as "heavy melancholic songs with catchy hooks," adding, "there's no blast beats here." ... The Red Chord are once again seeking a full-time drummer. The band, which used rotating drummers for much of 2004 before hiring Brad Fickeisen, has parted ways with the drummer due to irreconcilable differences. Ex-Chimaira drummer Kevin Talley will join the band for its upcoming tour with Throwdown and the Black Dahlia Murder, which begins February 22 in Minneapolis and runs through March 24 in Denver. Players who wish to try out for the vacant slot should check out TheRedChord.com for audition requirements.