If you can hear, then you don't want to buy this record. Why will you lose your sense of hearing? Because you'll have turned the volume up too loud! Why will the volume be so high? Because this is one rocking record!
Let me sing the praises of Zao. The vocals are excellent--very scary and mostly unintelligible throughout the album. The new lead singer's range is quite good, even if he shouts/screams the whole time. The best example of his range would be the opening track, "Lies of Serpents, A River of Tears," where he almost seems to hiss the song. The music is just as good as the vocals, swinging from blast-o-ramas to mosh-pit-frenzy and then to some serious head-banging grooves. The production is fantastic, quite possibly the best I have ever heard on a Christian hardcore album.
Some of the best songs are "A Fall Farewell," which has a very deep emotional vein and some awesome riffs, "Ravage Ritual," a song about false prophets which opens with a killer spoken word intro, and the end track "Violet," an instrumental tune reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
Overall, I just can't say enough good things about this album. If only it was longer, my life would be complete.
By Joe Rockstroth
( 5 if it were longer )
Everything you've heard about this project is true. Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest demolishes the previous incarnation of Zao in every way. Forget their past albums; they don't matter. This is a study in well-produced texture--the texture of pleasantly gurgling saliva in black metal vocals, the texture of grinding distortion flowing from vibrating guitar strings. The new Zao is a slower, more thoughtful beast; breaking up the percussive riffs and hardcore melodies is a heavenly acoustic bit and a concluding track of emotional piano. "Ravage Ritual" begins with a moving spoken word part that sounds like the narration to Terminator:
I remember the first
the way the sky burned
the faces of angels destroyed
I saw a third of heaven's legion banished
and the creation of hell
I stood with my brothers
and watched Lucifer fall...
but now, my brothers are not my brothers....
As good as this is, it still bears the curse of most bands along the spectrum from hardcore to metal: it gets old quickly. Zao has proved their ability to bring mellower moments to the table and to experiment with new sounds, but that only raises the standard higher for them. The next album will be eagerly awaited to see if they can crank up the atmospherics and song variety enough to keep the listener's fascination going to the end of the album.
By Josh Spencer (8/14/98)