Live Review: Zao Live From The Church (Live Stream)

For fans outside of the US the opportunity to witness live the wrath of a beast that has rarely adventured outside of the their native soil in a 28 year career that has seen them provide us with eleven studio albums and seven EPs. The tale of Zao is a complex one but for those who are not in the know, they originally formed in 1993 however there are no original members in the group as it lives and breathes today, this line up having been together as an entirety since 2010 when rhythm guitarist Russ Cogdell re-join the band for a fourth stint. The other four members in lead vocalist Dan Weyandt, lead guitarist and clean vocalist Scott Mellinger, and a rhythm section of Jeff Gretz on drums and Martin Lunn on bass have been around since 1998’s Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest” and 2005’s “The Fear Is What Keeps Us Her” so its fair to say they have paid their dues…

…the Church setting isn’t perhaps the Cathedral esq arena with grand high ceilings that the name suggests but a far smaller, almost village like one with the classic windows providing the only real indication of the location but it is steeped in Zao history, the place where their last album was essentially recorded. It’s quaint and gives the vibe of the band as if at practice, each person facing Gretz on the kit as they are surrounded by gear which helps create sound quality second to none as instrumental opening “Into the Jaws of Dread” plays out in style. Weyandt then steps out from behind one of the huge stacks to join the band for an almighty rendition of “Ship of Theseus” as the band have chosen three cuts from their April released “The Crimson Corridor” for tonight’s set. Like Converge before them, they have chosen a path that knows no borders or boundaries and during the set we get exactly that with moments a myriad of styles bursting from the seams as the band go all out to deliver the best performance possible with no audience in front of them. There are the smallest of gaps between the songs as the musicians share knowing looks and smiles as they carry off some of the more complex parts, Cogdell theatrically rolling his eyes into the back of his skull during a couple of the solos. As with their albums, the atmosphere once of crushing sonic weight that you can not help but immerse yourself in with Weyandt’s distinctive larynx shredding vocals surrounded by the bands dark beauty. The irony of “A Well-Intentioned Virus” being in the set isn’t lost on us and this rendition is played to perfection with each razor sharp riff on point before that crushing almost downtempo part that is a stone cold winner. Elsewhere “Romance of the Southern Spirit” gives off a post-hardcore vibe as a breakup song with Mellinger offering clean vocals to contrast the violence within the uncleans of Weyandt and all that is really missing is “The Rising End (The First Prophecy)” from 2004’s “The Funeral of God“, a personal favourite that would have been the icing on a mighty fine cake indeed [9/10]

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