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Zao
Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest
Reviewed by John Sant
4 stars

Different. That is the easiest way to explain Blood and Fire. With almost an entirely new lineup, ZAO's sound has changed along with the new members, bringing a completely new sound. The only remaining member of the old ZAO is Jesse Smith, still pounding away on the drums.

Forget everything you knew about ZAO, because this disc will blow you away.

Those who liked the old ZAO and the speed will be in for a shock. The music is decidedly metal. No more raging punkcore beats of the old ZAO; those seem to be gone forever. Replacing them is a slow, thundering display of metalcore at it's finest. There are still songs that are based off speed, such as the third track "A Fall Farewell." It doesn't sound like the old ZAO, but speed is present. Every song is laden with hooks and breakdowns, keeping the album interesting all throughout.

Lyrically, the words have changed from the militant Christian lyrics of The Splinter Shards The Birth Of Separation to the more poetic writings of frontman Dan Weyandt, both of which praise God but in different fashions. Also, Weyandt, Blood and Fire's new vocalist, is so far removed from Shawn Jonas' style of screaming that there's no comparison. While most people who've heard the album love his shrill scream, there are those who have dubbed the new ZAO "screech-core." Either way, his voice demands your attention. Solid State said it best when they described his voice as sounding like "a giant lizard with an attitude."

Production is top of the line, with Barry Poynter and Bruce Fitzhugh producing the album. Both of the guitars are distinguishable from one another, with one often going down the scale while the other climbs it. The bass is faint compared to ZAO's previous album The Splinter Shards, but carries enough weight to fill out the low end. Jesse Smith's drums are close to perfect, save for the small detail of his cymbals being almost non-existent. With that minor point aside, everything else is exactly how you'd want it. Barry Poynter is steadily making a name for himself by doing some of the best production you can find on the market today.

This album deserves a good four stars. It doesn't reach the five-star mark because the songs aren't quite complete. ZAO is definitely on to something insanely brutal, but they still need a bit more refinement before earning five stars. Songs seem to wander at times, dribbling off to an ending instead of truly being finished. Still, each and every one is unique and innovative in its own right. As far as metalcore goes today, ZAO would be a good addition to your collection.









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