If you look back at the history of Solid State Records, when you think of the most influencial bands, probably the first two that come to your mind are Living Sacrifice and Zao. Zao has always been the kind of band that is impossible to figure out. They changed lineups just about more than any band in the history of music. In fact, drummer Jesse Smith is the only member in the band now that was in the original lineup. Then, add to the fact that the band has been the victim of countless rumors and gossip. That doesn't even begin to touch on the fact that the band has announced their end numerous times, only to go on releasing albums. No better time for a compilation album, huh? Well, Solid State thinks so, and this is quite a fine compilation.
To tell you the truth, Zao used to be one of my favorite bands. Back in the days of Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest and Liberate Te Ex Inferis. But soon after, I started to stray away from the whole metalcore scene. Not that the bands were bad...it's just that I grew bored of the style. Upon receiving this album, I had rarely listened to Zao in the last couple years. This was actually a good chance to bring back some memories of some of the Zao songs that I used to love.
The thing that surprised me the most is that I've actually enjoyed this compilation a great deal. It's been good to hear some of the classic Zao songs again like "Ravage Ritual" and "A Fall Farewell". Then there are more recent tunes like "Suspend Suspension" and "Free the Three" that are good quality songs. The only album that really receives little attention is The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation, as only one song comes from there. No biggie, as that is my least favorite of all of their discs. The label also includes three new songs with the lead vocals of Corey Darst. Darst sounds pretty similar to Dan Weyandt except he's a little more raspy. Overall, the three new songs sound pretty good. Not anything radically different from the Zao of the years previous though.
The artwork is very well done here and the booklet contains a cool history write up by Ryan Clark of Training for Utopia/Demon Hunter. All in all, you get 17 songs that represent a great slice of Zao's legacy.
In the end, I'm still not going to be a huge metalcore fan. I've just moved on in my life. But I have to admit that Zao is pretty decent band, despite what metal purists might say. And who knows, maybe the next couple years will see more frequent spins of the Zao records in my collection. (Review by Matt)