There once was a time where Zao were a great Christian metalcore that stood out among their peers. Back in the 90's, they created a signature sound with powerful screams, raw guitars, and clean sung choruses. Unfortunately, this sound has been bastardized by tons of other metalcore bands that have spawned since that time. It's been ten years since Liberate Te Ex Inferis was released, and despite going through a lot of lineup changes, the band's sound hasn't changed much at all. In fact, some of the changes aren't for the good.
For starters, Dan Weyandt's once intense scream has diminished quite a bit. You can literally hear him strain his voice as he tries to force out the screamed vocals that are a building block of the band's sound. One bright side is the cleanly sung choruses from Scott Mellinger and Martin Lunn who add a nice melodic touch to the band's sound like on "Romance of the Southern Spirit." There are a few songs where Weyandt's vocals do shine, but overall his voice sounds shot.
The rhythm section does hold up their end of the fort very well, though as guitarist Scott Mellinger's raw tone comes through very nicely. The song "What Will You Find?" also shows off some of his skills in the riff department, he also has a brief solo included as well. Drummer Jeff Gretz does a solid job behind the kit, but nothing really special and bassist Martin Lunn is rarely heard.
Now, just because Awake? is very generic and formulaic doesn't mean that it's an awful album in any way. Some songs on here are pretty enjoyable like "Entropica" which is another one of the band's more melodic numbers. The aforementioned "What Will You Find?" is also another bright spot. The rest of the album is pretty much more of the same and while there aren't any bad tracks on Awake?, there's nothing to keep the listener interested either and with it being a mere ten tracks long, it's over before it starts.
Zao have not tainted their legacy in metalcore at all with this album. I just feel that they're kind of past their prime already. Like I mentioned earlier, their style of metalcore was once original but there are so many bands around today that are basically doing the same thing and Awake? contains basically nothing that makes them stand out among the rest. I suppose if you're a diehard Zao fan and need to own their discography, then this would be the perfect album for you.
5.6 / 10
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