Zao is back, baby. Following last year’s the Well Intentioned Virus and 2015’s Xenophobe,  Greensburg PA’s seminal metalcore masters Zao bring five furious slices of sinister sonic destruction with their new ep, Pyrrhic Victory.

Metalcore is a vast, ever evolving genre of heavy music. From bands the likes of legendary acts Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God to scenester acts a lá the Devil Wears Prada, all the way through the abrasive and chaotic Code Orange or Converge. But all of these bands would be for not if it weren’t for the legacy of the mighty Zao. Pulling from hardcore punk, swedish death metal, and brain-battering brutality, Zao carved a name for themselves in the mid-to-late 90’s, pioneering the genre alongside titans such as Shai Hulud and Training for Utopia. Their resolve to provide relentless riffing and absolutely barbaric breakdowns, complete with the most throat wrenching vocals this century, has only intensified on this new ep.

From the opening seconds of album opener “Drifting Shadows in Walking Dreams”, the guitars are loud, grinding, and drenched in aggression. Opening the album with a gut-punching groove nasty enough to initiate stank face the world over, the track perfectly sets the foundation for the drums and bass to fully level any and all life around them. Thunderous at times and anthemic at others, the instrumental section all across this album stays in perfect synchronization, gliding from sludgy, dissonant breakdowns to soaring solos and empassioned clean singing reminiscent of genre greats It Dies Today. Their technical side is fully on display on the track “Clawing, Clawing, Never Cutting Through” and their melodic sensibilities are shown off beautifully in album closer “Feed It Pain”.

To speak of Zao without mentioning their terrifyingly effective vocal element would be a disservice to both the band and the genre. Never before has a Zao record been blessed with such a venomous, vicious vocal assault. From pained yelps and barks in “Gifts of Flower and Stone” to the final moments of “Feed It Pain”, every last syllable is packed with rage and bitterness. Every cleanly sung lyric is triumphant, serving as a perfect contrast to the maddened shouts of the frontman.

Zao has been making waves since 1993 and it’s no secret why. Their impact is neverending and their drive is incessant. You can have your Asking Alexandria’s and your Kublai Khans, but Zao is forever on top.