Before drummer Jesse Smith re-establish Zao from Parkersburg to Greensburg, Pennsylvania; and before the band sounded like Carcass with Daniel Weyandt on vocals, Zao was a standard hardcore band with metallic tendencies. The Splint Shards the Birth of Separation, released in 1997, was the bridge between the band's purer hardcore sound of All Else Failed and the more metal/grindcore style of more recent albums. It's also the last album to feature a Parkersburg-based line-up before all but Smith quit the group.
On The Splinter Shards, the then-Christian-influenced band's second full-length album, Zao moved from the vein of bands like Strife and Unbroken into more metal-tinged hardcore like Indecision or Shai Hulud. Despite the band's ministry-oriented lyrical content - screaming "Praise Jesus" at the end of one track - Zao appeals to any hardcore band due to the technical musicianship and Shawn Jonas's emotional vocals. Zao has gone on to do quite well for itself under the leadership of vocalist Weyandt, but in my opinion, the sound of the early records is more raw, powerful and interesting than anything the band did after The Splinter Shards.
Album: The Splinter Shards the Birth of Separation
For Fans Of: Indecision, Strife, Shai Hulud