Zao - _The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here_
(Ferret Music, 2006)
by: Jackie Smit (
You have to admire Zao's persistence. With accusations of god-bothering and preaching dogging them since their days as a wet-behind-the-ears Christian hardcore outfit looking to make a name for themselves in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in the early Nineties, the last ten years have seen them continue to evolve into an ever more aggressive and effective unit. Toning down their religious agenda didn't hurt either, and by the time 1999's _Liberate Te Ex Inferis_ hit the shelves, Zao had reinvented themselves into noisecore merchants that could easily stand shoulder to shoulder with bands like Nora and the massively underrated December.Their tenth platter takes its cue neatly from its predecessor, starting us off gingerly before descending into a fully-blown discordant crescendo of grinding guitars, thunderous drumming and vocals that are biting enough to peel the skin off a grown man's face. With Steve Albini (known for his stellar work on acts like Neurosis) on board as producer, Zao also seem a distinctly more confident act, and notwithstanding Albini's glaringly abrasive analogue production, songs like "Killing Time 'Till It's Time to Die" -- with its nod to Entombed-style death 'n' roll -- makes landfill of any formulas the band may previously have followed. So effective in fact is this experimentation, that the record's more archetypal moments ("There's No Such Thing as Paranoia" and "Everything You Love Will Soon Be Gone" being two examples) sound indubitably pedestrian by comparison. Of course such criticisms aren't likely to mean anything to long-time fans, and odds are that this time around Zao have created a record that's searing enough to win them more than a handful of new admirers as well.Another Stryper these boys most definitely are not.
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