The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here
Styles: hardcore, metal, hardcore metal
Others: Fear Before The March Of Flames, Training For Utopia, Botch, Coalesce, Lack
Motherfucker, nothing gets my satanic side revved up like a nice "Christian hardcore" record. Pffft. Suck my balls, oh, holy creator, you got nothin' on Zao. They've been marching 'round the country in your name and they still sound like Mephistopheles himself, all ragged, lungs burnt to a crisp, and leaden guitars jabbing the soul like a letter opener in the hands of a sick maniac.
In case you couldn't discern it for yourself, I have a difficult time reconciling my hate for all music labeled as "Christian" with my love for bands like Danielson and Zao. In my experience, religion just seems to tear bands apart or make them lame like Petra or Stryper. Remember when Enigk got all gay on us and decided to quit Sunny Day Real Estate to pursue his Jones for JC? Sure, we got the Frog Queen out of it, but how lame is it to hold a belief responsible for breaking up your band? Hell, my shitty local band used to jam at a church called Subud. We'd bring our beer bottles, bongs and syringes (juuuuust kiddin') along for the ride and all was copasetic. The folks that owned the church didn't want to convert us OR judge us, and they understood our cult-like devotion to ripping off The Deftones (us being angsty kids in 1999 and all).
With the Subud's tolerance to our 'evil' ways in mind, I've tried to give Christian hardcore bands the same leverage, a.k.a. DON'T PREACH TO ME AND I WON'T PISS ON YOUR FACE. Zao are pious, but altogether awesome. The Converge of the Christian sect, Zao come out with a new album every year or two and make three member changes every few minutes or so. For all the work they've done over the years, the only album that really grabbed my by the short hairs and YANKED was Funeral of God, a relatively new effort from this veteran act. While old fans may shrug indifferently, I'm glad to report that the quartet are still on the right track, though a few douche-y emo melodies bubble up to the surface of The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here, knocking the whole caboodle down a few levels.
Other than that, it's impossible to complain. This isn't Antioch Arrow worship or skinny-guy hardcore or black metal or calculator-core grind. Zao perpetuate a distinct identity with lovely shrieks, thumping slabs of double-bass drumming, and the guitar sensibilities of a death-metal band with less cocaine in their systems. Daniel Weyandt's vocals are a big highlight; how many times have you heard that about a heavy record? His screaming is absolutely soul-shanking, to the point where one wonders how he will top himself next time around, not to mention how he'll sustain his voice on tour.
But that's his problem; if he wants to barf out a soupy combination of lung oil and blood every night, that's his sanguine dish to create. It sure makes for an interesting listen though, especially when his band relentlessly sculpts hardcore and metal into tough-to-pin-down shapes and sizes. The production is lovely as well, reveling in the bass-y pound and grime many Victory-era hardcore records miss out on with their high-tech bells and whistles. With so many albums and tours, Zao are now an institution. My suggestion? Invest heavily in Fear Is What Keeps Us Here, though you must have a proclivity for music that sacrifices melody for metal majesty.
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