There was a time when Christian metal/hardcore bands, especially those that combined the two into a hellish fusion, were regularly outperforming their secular counterparts. While that era is long gone, the rebirth of cross-bearers Underoath, Zao and Advent suggest that scene is about to take over once again, regardless of where their faith compasses point these days.
With interest in their sound and the band themselves reinvigorated — just look the prices their merchandise is going for on eBay and Facebook merch swap groups alike — Zao could easily have returned to their earlier sounds, but on The Well-Intentioned Virus, they focused on progression, rather than cashing in.
Sure, their first song back ("Xenophobe") is rerecorded here, and does a hell of a job recalling their Y2K-aotic sound and Dan Weyandt's corrosive vocals, but it's preceded by the Neurosis-ian "Apocalypse" and steady singing. And lest those two styles sound at odds with each other, tracks like "Broken Pact Blues" and "Observed/Observer" make them work. Sludge soaks the album, too, with early Mastodon-esque riffs on "The Weeping Vessel" and throughout, and even an airy Crack the Skye progression on "Haunting Pools."
That's not to say this album is a rip-off of any of the aforementioned bands; rather, it serves to show how expansive Zao have pushed their sound to become. The Well-Intentioned Virus is their best album in over a decade, picking up where The Funeral of God left off in terms of quality while nailing the progression they've been pursuing since. (Observed/Observer Recordings)