Zao - The Funeral of God
Record Label: Ferret Music
Release Date: July 13, 2004
Although ZAO have been known to deliver some pretty average metalcore albums, The Funeral of God is definitely one of the best portraits of the whole genre. It’s simply put together a lot better than most other artifacts of the maybe/maybe-not Christian trend, and it avoids all the popular footholds of today’s popular metal. The never-ending, bland breakdown is avoided, the chord progressions are all really creative, and the choruses are the good kind of catchy – infectious, but not whiny or forced.
Since the album came out in 2004, just a little bit before everybody thought they could be Norma Jean and just peddle discords for the span of an LP, The Funeral of God sounds pretty creative because it wasn’t bogged down by any stylistic expectations. This was an innovative-as-shit album that imitators would only botch in trying to recreate... even Zao themselves, when they continued to release albums that weren’t this one.
The fusion of clean, jazzy chords into the formula is a really nice touch that metalcore rarely sees; it makes the lighter parts sound like just really good music instead of “the not-heavy part.” This is some of the most innovative songwriting you’re going to find in this type of music, and whether or not the vocalist’s style of monotonous throat-shredding suits you, you’ve got to admire the unorthodox song structures; "Metal By Numbers" it ain’t.
The closer, “Psalm of the City of Dead” even works in a Smashing Pumpkins-esque piano piece very nicely. It’s not pretentious and it’s not the predictable “Outro” track that gets penned when a group like Dead to Fall doesn’t know what else to do to get to a 40-minute playback; it’s just a really neat track. The female vocal cameo and its accompanying “dark” lyrics are a little bit cheesy, but they grow on you quickly so you don’t even really notice the awkwardness by the second listen (don’t worry – it’s not like when Paramore's Hayley Williams showed up on The Fiance).
ZAO are generally overlooked in the metal scene, and where they are known, they’ve got a lousy reputation for being a mediocre band. But there is a loyal following dedicated to these guys, and so I’m here to simplify the contradictory statements you may have heard about them: no, you don’t need to listen to their entire discography, but The Funeral of God is completely awesome. So check and double-check your record store cut-out bins, because there might be a thrilling pseudo-Christian surprise waiting for you there.
Besides... it’s called The Funeral of God. Whether you want to be terrified or just get a good laugh, that title has just got to represent something interesting, right?