Review Summary: Zao's style changes drastically for better or worse with this experimental album.
You think Zao would of disbanded already. The amount of times they threatened to quit is sheer hilarity. I mean don't get me wrong, I love this band, but come on. Even after touring this album, they "broke up" right on stage. As for the album itself, it is quite a change from the days of Blood and Fire and Liberate, thanks due to the electric drumming of Jesse Smith.
The album opens up with 5 year winter, which is one of the stronger songs on the album. Scott and Jesse (who is also working guitar) decides to show a bit more technicality that was lacking in previous albums. Right near the halfway point a short solo is played, odd for Zao, but it suits the mood and adds to the build up of the conclusion. Dan screaming out "burn it down and walk away" is one of those moments that makes shivers go down your spine. After this there is a sort of instrumental in which Jesse uses the V-drums to provide a catchy yet simple beat.
At the halfway point we are greeted with "Trashcanhands" which is one of Zao's more recognized songs. Electronic vocals backup Dan's to add to the atmosphere which actually improves instead of decaying the quality. The riffs of this song are much more similar to those of Liberate, which fans of previous Zao albums will be pleased with. We are followed by "The Race of Standing Still", which is my personal favourite of this album. The softer intro to this song may come as a surpise, and is not unlike the Intro to Liberate. However, after this we are greeted with slow chant-like vocals that will have nearly any metal fan headbanging. The song stretches this chant for longer sections, but never seems to grow old.
This album is not perfect however, and the drums sometimes seem lacking in certain parts. Particularly in "The End of His World", which is one of the weaker songs on the album. The drums lack depth, and sound much more generic then most of the other songs on here. The vocal shouts and screams of Scott and Jesse do not help to add anything either, but this was experimental so who can blame them for making a couple of mistakes.
Luckily Zao knows how to write excellent album closers, and "At Zero" is definitely one of their finest. Right away we are shocked again with the technicality that Scott shows. The drums are blazing fast as well in this song. Dan's deep growls are no less exceptional. The riffs change tempo several times, but this only seems to enhance the song. Overall this album is much different then most Zao albums, but is not one to be taken lightly. Zao is no less in aggression and darkness, and the experimentation of electronic drums mostly helped feed the album rather then detract.
Dan's vocals never falter throughout the album
A bit more technicality never hurt anyone
V-drums take some getting used to
Occasional screams of Jesse seem unnecessary
The Race of Standing Still
5 Year Winter