Zao – Awake?

zao-awakeArtist: Zao
Album: Awake
Genre: Hardcore
Label: Ferret

I’m pretty sure no band has gone through more member changes or flat out drama than Zao. A ridiculous amount of albums and breakdowns have passed through this band, but I think listeners are about to find a very solid culmination of all the band’s work and determination with their latest album, Awake?.

“1,000,000 Outstretched Arms of Nothing,” kicks the album off deep and heavy with pounding drums and anthemic growls. It’s very obviously a call to arms for the record. Everything feels big and fast and begging for you to lend it an ear. A nice spoken word interlude in the middle gives the track some much needed variety, but either way it would be clear that Zao is back with a vengeance. Later, it’s the guitars on, “The Eyes Behind The Throne,” that let you know there is still reason to care about Zao. It’s heavy and dirty, but still so catchy and methodical that I don’t see how anyone could deny it. a similar feel comes with the chugging goodness of, “Human Cattle Masses Marching Forward,” it’s just skill. No, this track isn’t the most challenging to play or profound to hear, but it’s great heavy music and in the end, that’s what matters.

Leading into the back half of the record, “What Will You Find” is one of the quickest songs the group has released in years. It’s near punk like pace and guitar solo laced midsection make it an instant key track for the album. Likewise, the title track, which has a 90 alt rock type guitar riff really stands out on the first and each additional listen one gives the album.

The last thing I really want to note about the record is the 2 part, “Quiet Passenger” tracks. Both stand superbly on their own, but it’s the style arc between the two that truly demonstrates the potential of Zao. The firs tof the two seems to start out more rock influenced and grows heavier with flare. The second however, kicks off straight brutal and eventually lightens up for the acoustic ending entitled, “The World Caved In.” It’s violent and beautiful at once and a true golden ending.

Zao have been around the block many times with many different results. It seems everyone loves the first record, but then it’s hit and miss. However, I think Awake? may change the game. The evolution of the band comes together perfectly for a record that’s generally better than anything the group has released in half a decade. IF you think this band fell off, think again and if you’ve never heard of Zao [because you live under a rock or are too young to remember the glory days], I think this may just be the gateway to a new obsession.

Score: 7/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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