May 27, 2017 / 1:28 PM

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Former Zao Drummer Jesse Smith Returns to the Fold With the Holy Ghost

Jesse Smith & the Holy Ghost  ( Joe Banker, joebankerphotography.com / Courtesy of Standby Records )

Jesse Smith, ex-drummer and founder of influential metalcore band Zao, returns this summer with the debut album from his contemporary rock outfit, Jesse Smith & the Holy Ghost.

Dubbed Self Titled -- perhaps a nod to Zao's landmark 2001 release, (Self-Titled) -- Smith's new record represents the veteran musician's burgeoning sense of songcraft from within the context of post-hardcore while mindfully peering through the genre with a steely-eyed sovereignty.

Smith, who started Zao in his hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia in 1993 but exited the now Pennsylvania-based group in 2004, detailed his conversion from drummer to singer-guitarist:

"Over the years I have struggled to find my place as a songwriter," explains Jesse. "I'm a fan of heavy music, but I've always been into all types of stuff. When I began writing these songs, I just wrote from the heart, with no preconceived notions of what they would turn out to be."

Bereft of Smith for the last decade, Zao has continued, releasing three albums since the split. They are currently recording their eleventh full-length, tentatively titled The Well-Intentioned Virus.

Slightly amiss post-separation from the former Tooth & Nail Records band, Smith drifted from one act to another. He ventured electronic-industrial with Gods, launched chillwave effort My Own Halo and briefly reclaimed the drum throne for metalheads Society's Finest until 2011.

The germ for the Holy Ghost project was planted in 2012 -- the erstwhile percussionist recording and quickly selling through an initial EP release under the moniker. Now fortified by a stable lineup of bassist Ralph Moyers, drummer Brandon Joy, and guitarists Dakota Walker and Breyer White, the late-blooming frontman is satisfied with his crystallized conception:

"It's been an amazing experience creating music and art with so many dear friends," Smith says. "These songs are straight-up what I was looking to do. When I began, I wasn't sure who I was, but now I know."

Smith & the Holy Ghost tour the Eastern U.S. this July with He Is Legend:
07/07
: Brooklyn, New York City @ Black Bear
07/11: Toledo, Ohio @ Ottawa Tavern
07/14: Valparaiso, Indiana @ Big Shots
07/15: Crest Hill, Illinois @ Bada Brew
07/19: Erie, Pennsylvania @ Basement Transmissions
07/20: Webster, New York @ Harmony House
07/21: Wareham, Massachusetts @ 3065 Live
07/22: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania @ Federal Taphouse
07/23: Vineland, New Jersey @ The Oak Tavern
07/24: Morgantown, West Virginia @ 123 Pleasant Street
07/25: Baltimore, Maryland @ The Ottobar
07/26: Raleigh, North Carolina @ Southland Ballroom

Below, watch the video for "826" from the Holy Ghost's Self Titled out July 8 on Standby Records.