Zao

The Well-Intentioned Virus

Shaking off the slumber
dB rating: 8/10

Release Date: December 9, 2016
Label: Observed/Observer

It’s not 40 years of wilderness wandering, but metalcore innovators Zao have definitely been off the grid for a minute. The band’s Facebook bio here in 2016 still reads, “As of 2011, Dan, Scott, Russ, Marty and Jeff are currently working on the follow-up to 2009's Awake?” Sure, we outsiders given to occasionally musing, “Damn, Dan, Scott, Russ, Marty and Jeff have been in there a long time—wonder if they’re coming up with anything cool?” got a glimpse of an (very affirmative) answer via the nasty, careening, heavy-as-fuck 2015 Xenophobe 7-inch. Could the gang keep up that level of clarity, ferocity and clever architecture across the expanse of an entire self-financed, self-released full-length?

Why, yes, actually—Dan, Scott, Russ, Marty and Jeff can do precisely that. And more. 

Whether a function of the long gestation period or simply waiting for an apropos moment to capture lightning in a bottle, The Well-Intentioned Virus synthesizes the best post-Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest (1998) elements into a single and singularly powerful strain. For an outfit that dedicates so much time to lyrically ruminating over existential vagaries—at least since Dan Weyandt took over the mic from Shawn Jonas, beginning a steady march away from explicit Christian theologi-fying—Zao’s 11th full-length feels remarkably unencumbered and self-assured while reviving and evolving the band’s mostly-beast-but-intermittently-beauty core essence—grounded, as Jesus Jones might say, right here, right now; a superlative sonic encapsulation of words roared during “The Sun Orbits Around Flat Earth Witch Trials,” one of Virus’ most brutal bangers: “The past is fiction, forgotten and rewritten/The present, now past, countless moments lapse/The future, lost teacher, a looming callus creature.” If that’s true, Virus is one fuck of a chugging, clanging, grooving heavy metal alarm clock.

— Shawn Macomber

This review taken from the January 2017 issueThe Well-Intentioned Virus is available here on vinyl from Holy Mountain Printing.

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