Review Summary: Overall, this album provides everything needed to make a good, heavy record. The ferocity and viciousness in the vocals, and the heaviness and variety in the instrumentation makes this a must for any fan of heavy music.
Zao is a band that has seen its fair share of changes. Some of those changes have been brought on by senseless inter-band drama, and some have come naturally as an evolution that any self-respecting band will allow to happen. In 1997, Jesse Smith, the drummer, was the only original member of the band left. The original band had broken up so that the individual members could pursue other walks of life. Jesse, still wanting to play music, kept the Zao name and recruited new musicians for the band.
After recruiting guitarists Brett Detar and Russ Codgell, and vocalist Dan Weyandt, the new incarnation of Zao began working on the bands second LP "Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest." Dan recorded bass on the album, as they were yet to have a bassist, and the band toured as a four piece without bass for a couple of years. When the album was finally released, it took the underground heavy music scene by storm. Being one of the pioneers of a new blend of metal and hardcore music (metalcore), Zao was always respected by the scene, but fans were unsure what the new Zao would hold in store. Their fears would be silenced by the emotional whirlwind that is "Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest."
The album couldn't have had a better opener in the song "Lies of Serpents, A River of Tears." Haunting vocals overlay a heavy guitar/drums build-up before opening up into a heavy riff followed by dissonant chords. The growls (and sometimes shrieks) of vocalist Dan Weyandt showcase its ferocity and emotion throughout the entire album, making it a stand-out part of Zao's heavily improved sound. The dual guitar sound adds a depth to the already crunching tone, and for the time, adds a whole new meaning to "heavy" guitars. The bass chugs along with the rest of the band, adding the punch and sometimes the subtle approach necessary to pull of a good heavy bass sound.
Jesse Smith provides excellent drumming for the entire record. Adding enough variety and complexity to keep the listener interested into finding out what he will do next. The whole album is a seamless blend of crunch and intensity that will keep your blood flowing until closer "Violet" reaches its end. Lyrically, Dan Weyandt provides themes of Depression, Loyalty, Faith, and a plethora of other ideas that can connect the listener with what he is trying to present. Combined with the intensity of his voice, and the nature of the words, you would be hard-pressed not to come out of listening to this album devoid of any drive to think about the issues he presents.
For example, in the song "Ravage Ritual," Dan shares with the listener his experience with the man-made side of religion.
"I remember the first war, 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 aren't my brothers
Turned away by a misrepresentation
Stained glass and white washed tombs
The hearts of those who spoke to you
Were never homes to the God they tried to show you
They spoke out of prejudice and ritualism
They themselves were lost angels fold their wings
angels fold their wings
And weep along with us watching you shun, shun His sacrifice
Shun His sacrifice
angels fold their wings
And weep along with us watching you shun"
While Dan himself is a Christian, and believes in all of its values, he is completely turned off with the political side of it. This ideal shows up in a lot more of the albums lyrical points, and is even more potent in some of the bands later albums.
Combined with lyrics such as these, this album provides everything needed to make a good, heavy record. The ferocity and viciousness in the vocals, and the heaviness and variety in the instrumentation and makes this a must for any fan of heavy music.