So begins the second era of Zao. They opened up 1998 with a new lineup, a new style, and a new message. Drummer Jesse Smith took over the band after original members Shawn Jonas, Mic Cox, and Roy Goudy stepped down the previous year. From that point onward, the message of the band became more about the band members being alive because of their faith in God. Daniel Weyandt and guitarist Russ Cogdell from the Greensburg, Pennsylvania band Seasons In The Field, as well as Brett Detar of The Juliana Theory were brought in to record this dark new chapter. Many have proclaimed this album is the reason hardcore metal is what it is to this day. Bands such as Underoath, As I Lay Dying, Sinai Beach, and Killswitch Engage would not be where they are if it were not for Where Blood And Fire Bring Rest.
Dan's screaming voice is dead-on perfect on every song and fans of Haste The Day will notice where Jimmy Ryan got his influences from. Russ and Brett offer much heavier guitar riffs that completely blow away what the original lineup created. As far as the Christian message is concerned, the spiritual side of the songs has been toned down a lot for this release. A few of the songs deal with the death of loved ones who were very close to Weyandt. The lyrics from "To Think Of You Is To Treasure An Absent Memory" were written as a memorial for his stepbrother's best friend Robbie Spade, who at the time had committed suicide, "When you shut your eyes and fell asleep, Dark clouds descended on the souls of the ones who held you close to their hearts."
Finding guidance from the Lord of Lords appears throughout many of songs, including "March," but Zao never refers to Jesus by name, "A single quiet voice and the breath of His words consumed the night and brought strength I have never felt on my own, He held me up until I could walk again and promised to stay by my side forever." "Violet" is a beautiful instrumental track recorded with a piano and it closes up the album on a positive high note. If I had anything to complain about on this release, though, it would have to be the song "For A Fair Desire." Lyrically, there is a passion behind the song but musically it does not hold up well with the rest of the album. The track probably would have worked well with the Training For Utopia Split EP that Zao recorded later on that year.
Other than that, Where Blood & Fire Bring Rest is a beautiful transition for Zao. The songs are a bit shorter compared to The Splinter Shards The Birth Of Separation, but the album holds up on its own as one of the best hardcore metal albums of all time. Fans who love some of today's metal, such as Haste The Day, As I Lay Dying, and Underoath, need to do themselves a favor and pick up this album. There is a lot to like here for fans of the original lineup, but don't expect an openly Christian message on this release. The music of Zao is not for everyone. It is only for those who truly love their metal hard and very heavy.- Review date: 12/24/08, written by Fred Keel of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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