Zao (Self-Titled)

I'm starting to think maybe the Christians are on to something, what with that totally killer new release from Living Sacrifice and this, Zao's latest, annoyingly titled (Self-Titled). I knew this band was capable of some emotionally intense experiences, their 1998 album with the really long name being particularly good. They've managed to grow since then, and they're sounding excellent. The band can go from Meshuggah-style machine-gun riffs (which seems to be a white metal staple these days) to heavy hardcore to sorrow-filled ballads to an almost groovin' urban feel, all without sounding forced or silly. It's so great to see bands doing new things and changing but still sounding like they're into what they're doing. Why is it that two of the more daring things I've heard lately have been coming out of the historically stagnant white metal corner? That remains a mystery, as does the lyrical content of this one, since I can't understand a damn thing the singer is saying. A major factor working for this album is its length: at 36 minutes you don't have time to grow tired of it, it's almost anti-climactic, which works well. A downer is the drum sound, which at first I thought was a drum machine, so enough said there. It's hard to convince people to check out religious bands, myself included, but, seriously, check this out. If they play this shit at church, count me in. (Solid State)