Zao is quite the story. They began 24 years ago and are still kicking, releasing music. And it should be said that they’re not just still kicking, they’re bashing the doors in and reminding their fans that there is more to metal than repeated breakdowns and over-produced, cookie-cutter nonsense.
Returning with “Pyrrhic Victory,” a five track EP, Zao holds nothing back. It’s five songs of relentless screams from Daniel Weydant, and riffs and riffs and riffs. There’s something special and simple of this type of release. It’s not some overthought product with layered lyrics and fifteen different things going on in each song. Zao is a metal band, and they play straight up metal. No gimmicks, no hesitation, there are guitars, bass, drums, and vocals.
Drifting Shadows in Walking Dreams is vicious and unrelenting. The track – along with the album is infused with the 90’s metal of their origins. It’s a large part of what sets Zao apart from many other bands. There’s something in the riffs, the delivery of the vocals that doesn’t adhere to the modern trends of metal.
The third track, Clawing, Clawing, Never Cutting Through, has clean vocals in the chorus that shows enough diversity to break up the short album so it doesn’t come off as a twenty minute chaotic metal song. The transitions to and from verses and choruses in this song flow easily. Nothing seems forced when going through the melodic clean vocals to one of the heaviest moments on the EP. The track also ends with intense double bass, and a shredding guitar solo.
Feed It Pain ends the fast album in similar fashion. The opening riff is delivered with haste and drummer Jeff Gretz seems to have three hands and three feet for as crazy as the drums are. However, for all its fastness, for the first time on the album, a song slows. The middle section of the track takes its time with a rhythm and lead guitar before erupting without warning into chaos once again.
“Pyrrhic Victory” is quick and great. The production on the album is raw enough that it makes you feel like you’re at a show, but still polished enough so it’s pleasing to the ears. Zao is as old as me, and they are still making quality metal that should be recognized by the community. They are alongside the greats like Demon Hunter, Living Sacrifice, and Extol.