Monday, November 9, 2009

ZAO - Awake?

ZAO (Greek for "alive") have surely gone down like legends in Hardcore music history. Coming up in the mid-90s, they were one of the bands that formed the extreme side of what we call post-hardcore. I think they've managed to be one of the most special bands of that period not only due to their brutal sound, but also for the weird, dark spirituality and sense of unease they generate.

This is ZAO's new killer record and as the sticker on the CD says, they're back to "unnerve and provoke". And this they do: The best thing for me is Daniel Weyandt's vocals, a mix of black metal screams spat out with brutal hardcore monstrosity. At the same time, the music is dark heavy hardcore style, definitely metal-influenced but with no interludes, electronics or fake metal production. In fact, the production sounds really thick and warm, which is best-fitting for this style.

But Awake? is not just pummeling hardcore music; The album is filled from front to back with great discordant guitar work, some very well-put clean vocals/spoken parts, and constantly changing metallic drumming. In fact I don't think I heard one hardcore drum-beat going on, which is good: keep things mid-tempo and heavy!

Last but not least, the lyrics are dark, pessimistic, sometimes incomprehensible, but they so fit in well with the music (you won't understand a word unless you have the lyric sheet). But these words ooze with a sadness of the skeptic, the person who feels life and is immersed in it..

What's most important is that this record is an entity: it has 10 memorable songs that grow on you and leave you wanting more of Awake?. I personally always play the CD more than once in a row when I put it in the stereo (maybe 2, 3 times). After all, Awake? is complex enough for you to invest your time in listening to it again and again.

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