2. In Loving Kindness
4. Growing In Grace
6. Ps 77
8. All Else Failed
2003 Solid State Records
Following their 2002 release, “Parade of Chaos,” the ever-changing Zao leaves us (at least we think…) with “All Else Failed,” a re-recording/cover of the unit’s seminal debut LP that put the spirit-filled metalcore band on the hardcore/metalcore map.
As expected, “All Else Failed” receives a facelift in terms of its presentation. The music is tight, crisp, and emits an equal, if not greater, metal feel and sound than before. This is especially accentuated by the cutting guitars, and Dan Weyandt’s scathing vocals that always bring “Heartwork”-era Carcass to mind. (Just listen to “Endure.”) Other positives include quality production and a good mix. The recording isn’t overly slick or too rough, and the levels for the vocals and instruments are represented well, respectively.
But with the updated Zao sound applied to the full-length, there are some unfortunate imperfections that detract from the effort. Much like the group’s live shows, songs on the record have a slower tempo versus the original recording. They don’t necessarily drag, but it’s almost as if the sense of urgency and desperation of the original long-play, a notable strength, is now absent on the new CD. The vocals may have a part in this, as Weyandt brings a darker, more brooding style when compared with original front man Shawn Jonas.
Another concern is the execution of the music. For instance, on each Zao record, drummer Jesse Smith has always tried to bring something a little different to the table, whether it was interesting drum fills, grind blast-beats, or electronic sounding percussion. “All Else Failed” falls short of any innovation, as the drum work is simplified and straightforward, mirroring that of “Parade of Chaos.” Elsewhere, minor adjustments in some of the guitar riffs seem questionable at times.
Finally, the most perplexing issue is why Zao decided to omit “In These Times Of Silence” and “A Simple Reminder,” two tracks that appeared in the original recording.
Visually, the record’s layout leaves much to be desired. As ridiculous as it sounds, it reminds me of Easter with the pastel color schemes. Faces of band members and random people are presented in simplified black and white drawings, but washed in gray, green, or tan. Meanwhile, graffiti script is used all over. Overall, I’m not sure of this visual representation relates to the record and what it stood for at the time of both releases. In addition, it would have been nice for them to reprint all the lyrics, instead of those for just “All Else Failed,” in case a potential listener doesn’t own the original CD.
Bottom Line: While it may seem that the negatives outweigh the positives here, I do believe that the record is still an enjoyable listen for even the most picky and diehard Zao fan. For all intensive purposes, Zao achieved what they set out to do—cover an album by applying its latest sound to music recorded roughly 8 years ago, by what could be considered a completely different band. In this case, it’s just easy to point out the “flaws”(byproducts of Zao’s latest sound) in this re-recording, considering the original was such a classic. Nevertheless, “All Else Failed” still stands up well versus its contemporaries because of its musical content rather than execution, and just proves once again that solid songwriting stands the test of time.