Who knew ZAO would still be around in 2017? Especially considering that the last original member left the band over a decade ago. And who ever would have guessed that they would still be an excellent example of late 90s metalcore, somehow surviving at least a decade after anyone would have guessed they’d be relevant? Certainly not me, but the fact is, it’s happened, with their 2016 album The Well-Intentioned Virusshowing that they’ve still got the spark that made classic albums Where Blood And Fire Bring Rest (1998) and The Funeral Of God (2004) so killer. Singer Daniel Weyandt and guitarists Russ Cogdell and Scott Mellinger are still in the fold from those days, too, so things really haven’t changed as much as one might fear. The mix of harsh screams, sludgy riffs, powerful breakdowns, and emotional drama that made Zao great is still in place.
Meanwhile, the openers for this bill mix VA bands with roots in the same era that spawned Zao and younger groups paying tribute to a crucial early influence. Sunndrug hails from VA Beach and features members of Spitfire and Norma Jean, two other bands from that same late-90s metalcore scene that spawned Zao. All of them had Christian content and associations at the time, and all of them seem to have grown beyond overt ties between music and religion in the years since, which is always nice to see (though let’s be real, if Jesus Christ gets mentioned from stage a time or two on this night, no one will be surprised. Just try to tune out for those parts). Ostraca may have been around in some form for over a decade now, but they’re spring chickens compared to Zao, and bring a newer, darker version of metalcore into the world–believe me, it’s a welcome one. Venomspitter are on much the same page as Ostraca, though they feature a more overt hardcore influence. And while they’re the newest band on this bill, some members played with bands (most notably Forefront) who opened for much earlier incarnations of Zao back in the pre-9/11 days when the world was young and full of hope. The more things change, the more they stay the same.