Zao
Parade of Chaos

So, like most people, I have been in the dark about Zao the past several months. I’ve heard rumors of members leaving, old ones coming back, a possible break up and whatever else was on the Internet rumor mill. I was holding my breath in anticipation to see what would happen with this seminal metallic hardcore entity – there was even word of Zao leaving Solid State Records. Well, time to lay the rumors to rest with this, their fifth album, Parade Of Chaos.

Now, no one can argue that this band hasn’t continually morphed their sound with each album, for that I applaud them, even if I didn’t like the music; that is something that deserves credit, but on Parade Of Chaos, the real morphing going on here is the marriage of their entire catalogue on one disc. The slight keyboard ventures from the last album are here, but are done more tastefully and effectively than before, proving to be less intrusive and overall easier for the listener to swallow. Another big change is the reintroduction of original singer Dan Weyandt; can we say sick fucking vocals? Damn, this guy’s throat sounds like it is being straight up tortured at times (via Carcass and At The Gates fashion). Of course, in an almost humorous turn, Weyandt’s vocals are more melodic and pleasing to the ear than they have ever been before when assuming their clean approach to songs. This is most clearly evident on the track “Man In The Womb,” a quiet acoustic track that is catchier than the black plague and equally mesmerizing. With meandering vocals and snake-like melodies this track is probably the smoothest sounding song on the record where everything fits perfectly.

One thing with Zao that originally drew me to them when I first heard their Where Blood And Fire Bring Rest opus was the sickeningly heavy opener “Lies Of Serpents, A River Of Tears”; that song floored me because of the sledgehammer-esque chugga-chugga battery. The great part about this nostalgia tangent is that Zao don’t rely on simple, neanderthal palm-muted guitar work to be heavy anymore. They’ve harnessed equally moving moments without joining the ranks of hundreds of bands out there with the typical breakdowns and predictable open “E” chugging. Catchy guitar lines, melodic hooks, eerie atmospheres and experimentation are just as potent and are a staple on Parade Of Chaos.

“Angel Without Wings,” a mid-paced number with a great clean chorus and melodic guitar riffs that plod right along, “Suspend/Suspension” is a great ride that’s structure makes every turn something to look forward to with soft breaks, haunting vocals and subtle keyboard samples to lace the buzz saw guitar riffs are two more standout cuts. The opener, “The Buzzing,” surprisingly takes note from Sweden’s death metal brethren, but the most dramatic track it probably the closing number “How Are The Weak Free.” This song is a fitting chapter to close Parade Of Chaos out, because it contains all the elements hinted at throughout the disc, but here they are played with total aplomb. Every part of this song is manufactured to fit with the other elements – the double bass, quite breaks, beautiful sample of a melodic crooning in the background and guitar – that is reminiscent of something the Deftones would do (heavy yet catchy and melodic).

Zao, thanks for giving metalcore a much needed heart transplant.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Stacy Buchanan
July 16th, 2002

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