Originally written by Erik Thomas
Possibly one of the year’s most anticipated Metalcore/Godcore releases, the reformed Zao, now on Ferret Records seem aware of the growth of the genre they helped pioneer with little or no mainstream recognition, despite a steady flow of releases. Now wanting a piece of the pie they helped bake, Zao and their Christian laced metalcore is back. With a new rhythm section and the renewed sense of vigor, original members Dan Weyandt, Scott Mellinger and Russ Cogdell have come out with a breathtaking concept that deals the death of God due to mankind’s apathy; A perfect vehicle for Zao’s beliefs and music.
Now while the deep concept of the album is stunning, the actual music itself is slightly less impressive. While still a solid album, the music never conveys the epic sadness of the concept, instead being rather straight forward, chugging metalcore. Granted, the material is moodier and more bombastic than many of their contemporaries, relying on down-tuned grating riffs rather than Euro tinged harmonies, but it never seems to rise up to what the concept promises.
Weyandt’s clean vocals are used frequently, but they are never emotional enough to carry the theme of the very deep lyrics, and as a result, the album is somewhat flat overall. Musically the low end rumble of the stout production has some slight Korn-isms to it (a low end twangy bass), but is hefty and suitably metal, but the material itself is the culprit of some pretty generic and unprovocative material. With evocative titles like “The Last Song From Zion”, “Truly, Truly This is The End”, and “I Lay Sleepless in My Grave”, I expected some immense moments of cinematic metal telling the grim tale of God’s demise, but the songs never really ascend into something more than expected chaotic metalcore. There are a few moments of ‘eyes to the sky’ type feelings of loss and grace, (“The Last Revelation (The Last Prophecy)”) and the moderately epic album closer “Psalm For the City of the Dead”, but otherwise if you didn’t know the album’s theme, you would never feel any kind of empathy for its story. I truly think some sort of consistent synth/choir work or melancholy refrains (As done on “Psalm For the City of the Dead”) to convey the pious and eventually sober outcome of the story would have added a whole level of real emotion to the album that it sorely lacks.
As a whole, the album stutters and lurches along adequately, with thick riffs and pummeling percussion, but nothing spectacular that breaks the mould. To be truthful, other than their Christian themes, Zao have never leapt out at me musically, and this album holds true to that feeling. Fans of their discography will no doubt love this ‘comeback’, but I get the feeling Zao’s reputation outdoes the actual output of this album.
I preferred former Zao vocalist Shawn Jonas’s Symphony In Peril by far.