Some would call Zao the musical embodiment of a soap opera. Even in their early years, they went through two lead vocalists and countless other band members. Their defining moments, however, were when vocalist Dan Weyandt entered the band and recorded Where Blood & Fire Bring Rest, Liberate Te Ex Inferis, Self-Titled, and Parade of Chaos.
The drama didn't end there though. Between Where Blood & Fire Bring Rest and Parade of Chaos, the line-up changes continued. Band members came and went until the band was narrowed down to just three people. And believe it or not, the drama continued even further: in 2003, Weyandt left and was replaced by Josh Ashworth of Society's Finest.
But, according to the band, those days are all over.
The new release from Zao, The Funeral of God, features the return of Weyandt and Russ Cogdell, staying member Scott Mellinger, and newcomers Stephen Peck and Shawn Koschik: a solid lineup that the band is extremely happy with, prompting guitarist Mellinger to announce to the crowd at a recent Toronto show that the Zao we know today isn't changing. No matter what.
All of the songs are a lot cleaner and better constructed than Zao's older material. Most of the songs almost make it sound like this album was recorded by an entirely new band, including the opener "Breathe of the Black Muse." The track is a lot faster than previous works, vocals are much cleaner, and it even features Mellinger on back-up vocals, providing a fresh and welcome new element to Zao's songs.
The tracks "Praise The War Machine" and "The Rising End (The First Prophecy)" are re-recorded versions of "She's Not Leaving, She's Not Breathing" and "21st Century Thriller" from the 2003 demo, but with entirely re-written lyrics. These versions are far superior to the previous ones, and definitely the most important tracks on the album, the latter being extremely catchy.
However, this album features something so well done that it's as worthy a mention as the audible pleasure this album provides, and that would be the lyrics. The Funeral of God tells the story of a world that has rejected God so much that He chooses to completely disappear. The tragic and terrifying story is told over the eleven tracks so well that I got lost in the epic tale; this is a good thing since it shows Weyandt can not only act as an amazing vocalist, but as a magnificent lyricist and storyteller.
Overall, the quality of the new lineup shows on this extremely well-performed album. And despite the dark concept of the album, it seems like Zao have had some new life breathed into them; they seem completely re-energized, and it doesn't seem like the funeral of Zao will be occurring any time soon.
8.7 / 10
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Posted June 14, 2013, 9:28 p.m.
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