Sound — 9
One of the most original sounds I've heard in Metalcore (considering that Zao is one of the pioneers of Metalcore and Christian Metalcore). The sound in this CD is quite similar to Liberate Te Ex Inferis, just a little bit slower and a bit more clearer. Considering that the music itself was fully composed by Jesse Smith and Scott Mellinger, the quality of the music and recording is better than on other albums. The trademark riffs of Zao remain the same: atmospheric riffs from time to time, the legendary headbanging riffs of Mellinger, and of course, the breakdowns. An interesting fact is that the drums recorded in this material aren't acoustic, but V-Drums. I personally don't find this as an influential aspect in the CD, since the sound of the drums is great, but it's a curious thing that Scott Mellinger didn't like the use of V-Drums in the CD. The bass just follows the lines of the guitar and doesn't have a major role on the sound of the CD what'soever.
Lyrics — 10
Dan Weyandt must be one of the most interesting frontmans in all Metalcore. His past helped shape his whole personality (as with everyone), and with this, his screaming and lyrics. Ranging from poems to personal letters, the lyrics never fall from the personal term, and while being short and simple at times, it's interesting how they keep you reading them again and again making your own conclusions. The quality of Dan's screams keeps getting better and better, and while some people might think his screaming is monotonous, they fit perfectly in each part; even at some parts, you can hear different tones in Dan's screams, almost emulating growls. On the other hand, there's also melodic singing in some songs, and while the voice doesn't show proper vocal training, it doesn't really affect the mood of the songs.
Overall Impression — 9
It's impossible to compare Zao to other bands. On a personal level, I haven't heard any band that sounds similar to them throughout the years that I've been listening to Hardcore and Metalcore, which is great in my opinion. Nowadays it's hard to find bands that can really grab their influences and make a sound of their own, and in my opinion, Zao is one of them. Back to the CD: ten tracks keep this CD together. For me, three standouts: Five Year Winter, Tool to Scream and At Zero (Simeon Simmons). (Self-Titled) doesn't quite surpass Where Blood & Fire Bring Rest, but it certainly keeps up with it. It is true that during the recording of this CD the band was passing through hard times, but somehow they managed to put out a decent CD, worth of having the name of Zao.