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Zao Pyrrhic Victory

Zao - Pyrrhic Victory
1. Drifting Shadows In Walking Dreams
2. Gifts Of Flowers And Stone
3. Clawing, Clawing, Never Cutting Through
4. The Host Has Bared Its Teeth
5. Feed It Pain
2017 self-released

Reviewed by: Colin   //   Published: 12/1/2017

Nearly a year ago, Zao released their critically acclaimed eleventh full-length album, The Well-Intentioned Virus. Following seven years of silence, the record found the remolded metalcore pioneers crafting some of the strongest and most technical songs of their entire career. Rather than rehash past successes or chase current genre trends, the five-piece instead continued carving out their own sound, building upon the dreary and apocalyptic foundation they began laying in the mid-nineties.

Luckily, fans of the band don't have to wait nearly a decade for the album's follow-up as their latest EP, Pyrrhic Victory, comes hot on its predecessor's heels. Its five songs are simultaneously an extension of The Well-Intentioned Virus and a step further into the progression of Zao's sound.

Centered around the teetering riffs and off-kilter interplay of guitarists Scott Mellinger and Russ Cogdell, Pyrrhic Victory is raw and unrelenting. Opener "Drifting Shadows In Walking Dreams" blasts through its thrashy, pinched harmonic heavy first half before dropping out into a slow, Neurosis-inspired mid-section. Drummer Jeff Gretz plays a minimalist rhythm, bringing to mind the stylings of original beat keeper Jesse Smith before corralling the track back to its noisy, dissonant conclusion.

"Gifts Of Flower And Stone" bookends its spoken word passage and soaring guitar solo with chaotic riffs and demonic screams while "Clawing, Clawing, Never Cutting Through" bounces between melody and aggression with a sophistication lacking in most of modern metalcore. The track weaves through wobbling guitars, clean vocals and sludgy rhythmic breaks before closing out on another wailing guitar solo.

One thing Zao have always done particularly well is melding the complex with the simple and the beautiful with the ugly. Pyrrhic Victory is no exception. Mellinger and Cogdell's guitars bounce off each other, complementing and contrasting at just the right moments. For every austere drum-beat, Gretz provides a creatively wild fill; and threading its way through it all is vocalist Daniel Weyandt's incomparable screams.

This is all perhaps best on display during closer "Feed It Pain." As the track builds, discordant tones accompany the driving riff and pounding drums only to drop out into a gentle winding mid-section. The band suddenly kicks back in to high gear as the track descends into its chaotic denouement. It's the type of well-structured song we've come to expect from Zao at this point.

Bottom Line: Pyrrhic Victory proves that The Well-Intentioned Virus wasn't a late career outlier soon to be lost amongst mediocre output. Not only are Zao for real nearly twenty years after dropping their landmark record, Where Blood And Fire Bring Rest, they may actually be better than ever.

anonymous   posted 1 day ago
Just saw them in Dallas, TX and they slayed. WAY harder than they did with Jesse. Also, the drummer you saw in '05 is not the same drummer they have now. Current drummer might be better than jesse
anonymous   posted 4 days ago
New AILD slays this album, bye bye zao
anonymous   posted 5 days ago
The reason , I think, people still rave about the old albums is bc Jesse Smith. His drumming is distinct on practically every record. I saw them on their "last tour" with him on drums and it was one of the heaviest shows I've ever been to. They had no bass player on this tour The band was so aggressive. This was summer 2002. I then saw them with their new drummer circa 2005(?) with ETID, and Misery Signals. Just wasn't the same. The band was over for me then.
anonymous   posted 7 days ago
jonas stuff is alright. but it is totally different. i never put it on when i want to listen to ZAO. it is kind of like chuck mosley era faith no more. yes. it is faith no more. and the original. but it was better after. and honestly. the dan era is why most people even know about zao. does anybody REALLY want to see a maiden tour with paul dianno?
anonymous   posted 7 days ago
the fck, no shawn jonas love? i kinda dug Splinter Shards...

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