Zao - The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here
Release Date: June 13, 2006
Record Label: Ferret Records
Yes, we know that Zao have no original members left. Yes, we know that nearly every album has a different line-up. But this does not take away from the fact that Zao still create some of the most intense and substansial hardcore out there.
Here, on their tenth album, The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here, Zao (with new drummer Jeff Gretz and new bassist Martin Lunn) chose to work with the influental Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana, Neurosis) at his Electrical Audio studio in Chicago. In true Albini spirit, this album is raw, avoiding Pro Tools and going analog (that's recording straight to tape for you kids) and tracking all the instruments live with little overdubs. Vocalist Daniel Weyandt chose to sing through a handheld microphone into an overdriven PA to make it sound "like a basement show" (as Weyandt told me at the albums release show on 6-15-06, but the shows a whole other review). Basically, this album is a complete 180 degree shift from their prior effort, 2004's The Funeral Of God.
The album opens with "Cancer Eater", which simply serves as a guitar instrumental introduction, before erupting into 50 seconds of sheer mayhem. Next is the Muse-inspired (as guitarist Scott Mellinger puts it) track "Physcian Heal Thyself", a fast paced song with technical drumming and blazing guitars. After this track, the album has a string of slightly filler tracks, such as "Kingdom of Thieves" and "There Is No Such Thing As Paranoia". While following the typical Zao format, these songs bring nothing memorable to the table and quickly are forgotten. But, the album gets back on track with the song "Pudgy Young Blondes With Lobotomy Eyes", a track in which Lunn's bass and Gretz's drumming go perfectly together. Another standout (and my favorite) is the extremely technical "American Sheets On The Deathbed". Mellinger's guitar playing is thrown into the forfront and Weyandt screams his heart out. The album closes with the dark "A Last Time For Everything", which at 5 mintues drags on towards the end with Weyandt repeating the album title for a significant amount of time.
Zao have taken a step in the right direction after The Funeral Of God, which, as Weyandt said, didn"t sound like them. Albini and Zao went hand and hand and created a raw, intense, and abrasive album. It's no Liberate Te Ex Inferis or Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest, but I can see them creating a third masterpiece in a few years. Lets just hope that this line-up stays!