We’ve been telling you how awesome the new Zao album is, but don’t take OUR word for it. Here are 2 very recent press reviews… and don’t forget, it’s out on Monday. METAL HAMMER THE FUNERAL OF GOD (ZAO) [FERRET/ROADRUNNER] State of the art heavy metal 9/10 I’ll admit it – there are certain things that you actually really, really, look forward to reviewing and this was definitely one of those. Having totally bought into the US press ad campaign of: í¢äåñWe ask that you join us in grieving at ‘The Funeral Of God,’ a 47 minute, 26 second Mass,í¢äå along with the powerful statue and cross imagery, the wide eyed fan in me was salivating in a way unseen since the death of picture-disc vinyl. To live up to that kind of vision Zao couldn’t simply be good, it had to be awesome, even genre defining. If that genre happens to be metalcore then never has there been a more required moment for sharpening and redefining, as band after band mix old hardcore riffs with trad solos and strained grunts into a lumpen, impotent grind. If the melodic end of the genre has been taken by Killswitch Engage then the extreme end of the Kingdom belongs to Zao. No question. Armed with the knowledge that extreme doesn’t always have to read ‘brutal’, ‘The Funeral Of God’ is Zao’s attempt to rise above the underground and in striving for that there can surely be few things more ambitious than a concept album based around God choosing to die with which to achieve that aim. It’s the kind of subject matter that could lead to considerable embarrassment but one that Zao tackle with something approaching total fearlessness. The influence pool may seem familiar doses of NYHC bludgeon, classic thrash riffs and damaging death metal beats, but the difference between them and so many of their so-called peers is in how Zao wrap it up into a concise and thoroughly contemporary beast. The end result is so much more than simply a sum of its parts. The dual guitars of Scott Mellinger and Russ Cogdell are razor sharp when required, cauterising on the riffs and beautiful in equal parts, while Dan Weyandt’s vocals sound equally commanding whether he be shredding his throat or squeezing the last drops out of his soul. There’s no death grunt to whining caterwaul here, the guy can really sing when he wants to. From start to finish the quality is relentless but for the best results and the most seamless examples of everything Zao can be then ‘Liveí¢äå_ From The Funeral Of God’ and ‘Praise The War Machine’ shine strongest – the riff coursing through the latter simply monstrous. ‘I Lay Sleepless In My Grave’ is the kind of epic finale that an album of this stature needs and indeed demands, bringing to an end a piece of art that you can both rock out to and bask in. By being brave enough to take the high road and take chances in the concept of what they could achieve, Zao have not only succeeded in re-setting the bar within their genre they have very likely crippled it as surely as they have transcended it. However if ambition breeds competition then let the new age begin. BIG CHEESE THE FUNERAL OF GOD – ZAO Christian metalcore legends return. 4/5 Despite having split up several times and having gone through more band members than Guns & Roses, Zao have retained their reputation as being one of the best metalcore bands in the world. Zao are committed Christians and they’ve done a concept album about God. Now there’s a surprise. The album explores the idea that that God has the hump with humanity because we don’t pay him enough attention so he decides to have an everlasting kip. Regardless of the ideological aspects of Zao, they make some damn fine and ferocious metalcore. It’s also surprisingly coherent as a concept album. The songs work well individually but the album definitely has to be listened to in one sitting for its full effect. The more melancholy and calmer tracks towards the end of the album give a nice sense of balance to the full on aural assault at the start. Zao haven’t sullied their good name.