Parade of Chaos marks Zao's fifth (and final) studio release. Dan is back on vocals for this one, and it's a rocker for sure.
The first thing I noticed about this record was the excellent design work. The concept was put together by Asterik Studio and it looks amazing. The cover (and entire booklet) has a 1.25" hole cut through the center (right where the figure's face should be). The whole booklet has a worn and burnt look that contributes to the theme. The lyrics are printed in a spiral around the (apparently) burnt-out holes, and seem to be swirling into a black hole. The cd itself appears to have blood splattered on it. This is what a metal cd should look like.
Overall, I think it's an excellent record. It's been in my cd player many hours since I picked it up. The first track, The Buzzing, starts out with a guitar riff that reminds me of back when Metallica used to rock it. When I hear this song, I can't help but get moving. The guitars are really strong throughout the whole track.
Suspend, Suspension is my favorite song on the record. It starts out with muted guitar and drum parts, and then comes in a little more, accompanied by some electronic noise until a nice chunky guitar breakdown, and then the slow grindcore that Zao does so well. This song has some great imagery in it, and is surprisingly melodic. The drums in it are very nice as well, I think it's the tempo and the vocals that do it for me. Excellent track. I'd buy the record just for this one. It finishes out with more heavy guitar chunks on top of surprisingly lucid vocals, then about a minute or so of electronic stuff. Nicely done.
The title track starts with a riff that you might expect to hear on a Fuel record. The vocals sound a little silly on top of it, and I'm not a big fan of the lyrics either. However, around the minute and 40 second mark, there is one of the sickest breakdowns I've ever heard. The vocals alternate between low- and high-pitched screams of, "Chaos..," "Kills Us." The track finishes out with the last syllable stretched out and processed in a very unsettling way. Love it. So, basically, the song starts off badly, but finishes in an amazing way.
Angel Without Wings shows a melodic side of Zao that I think works well. The vocals alternate between screams and straight up singing, and there is some really clean guitar work behind it all. It ends with fading refrains of "Without wings..." and acoustic guitars. A decent song.
Killing Cupid is a full-on fast rocker that has a catchy, sing-along (scream-along?) type chorus and a rather good guitar solo. This song also has an excellent breakdown, and the high end of the drums sounds awesome.
Free The Three shows the best guitar work on the record. Everything flows. There's an interesting spoken word interlude with acoustic guitars behind it. The interlude swells into a crushing grindcore-type breakdown with really intense vocals that accuse, "You liars! You killers!" and then finish out with more quickly screamed accusations. This is probably a better song than Suspend, Suspension, but I still prefer the slower tempo of that track for my favorite song on the record.
The singing worked on the title track, but fails on Man In The Womb. I can say that there is a really tortured guitar solo in this song, and some interesting keyboard effects as well. Other than that, it's not a very good song.
A Pirate's Prayer starts out with a drum and guitar part that had me anticipating something really great. I enjoy the drums on this track more than anything else. The guitars are pretty bland compared to the rest of the album, and although the vocals sound good, it's not one of the better songs on the record. However, there is a nice effect when toward the end, almost everything is muted out (except the beat) with a kind of "underwater" effect and then comes back in at a much higher volume than before, with a sure-fire sing-along for the kids. Again, a track that starts out mediocre and ends strong.
The Ballad of Buddy Bigsby is a short, all instrumental track. Some interesting (but not great) electronic stuff.
The final track, How Are The Weak Free finishes out a decent record. Crunchy guitar parts alternate with slower, clean, strumming parts, and a spoken vocal, "Free the wolf - From his cage - Watch him hunt - Stalk his prey." The tempo stays slower through most of the song, and fades out to nothing but drums at the end. Decent listening.
As a whole, I enjoy this album. Nothing on it is quite as epic as..say.. Five Year Winter was, but it still has some strong parts, for sure. I think most of the songs show a catchy element of Zao, which is something that's not easy to pull off with metal. I've recommended this record to several people. It's a satisfying last release from one of my favorite bands. Pick it up, you won't be sorry. And for a review and photos of Zao's final show, click here.