Forget that this band features members of one of the most influential metalcore bands of the nineties. Forget that lately hardcore seems to be synonymous with five minute songs about backstabbing, scene division, or ex girlfriends; forget strategically placed, formulaic breakdowns.
Just put on this disc, turn up the volume, and prepare to rock.
When I first heard the members of Shai Hulud were in a side project entitled "Zombie Apocalypse" with the vocalist from try.fail.try, I thought it was a joke. Then I heard the mp3 for "Bastard Shit Bastard."
The excellent guitar work of Shai Hulud is apparent on this disc; the vocals are the result of both Matt Fox and Matt Fletcher as well as Ronen of t.f.t., and they carry the same poetic and thematic elements of the Hulud, albeit much shorter. (quick side rant: I find it really funny that a lot of people on this site call Matt Fox's lyrics "pretentious" simply because they address complex themes in verse form with good diction, while they praise albums whose lyricists decide to write obscure 'stream of conscious' songs whom noone will ever be able to interpret as anything more than gibberish) Regardless of whether or not you liked Shai Hulud, it is undeniable that "Hearts Once Nourished on Hope and Compassion" was an oft-imitated and highly influential release in the mid-to-late nineties. "That Within Blood Ill-Tempered" also proved that hardcore can be lyrically diverse and still pack a powerful punch, and the tradition continues with ZA, as the theme i first interpreted to be a joke is in fact a relevant metaphor for society.
Examples: Those who fear judgement fear only themselves; a forged existence. But when the end comes - those who march on will be the ones who used hope as a weapon. So we embrace fear - march on to victory. - "March on to Victory" We sit transfixed in mesmerized delight. Hypnotized, manipulated, we're grabbing everything in sight. Our fingernails are bleeding from beneath. We smile so vacantly - we grin and show our rotting teeth. Eating the remains of the meaning that we seek, the substitution of illusion leaves us cowardly and meek. We sit transfixed. -"The Dead in the Queue"
So the relation between Shai Hulud and Zombie Apocalypse rests not so much in a similar sound but in unavoidable similarities due to the talent of those involved. The biggest difference lies in the tempo: "...Spark of Life" rips through 10 tracks, 8 of which are songs, in 11 minutes. This disc is brutal; it will beat you over the head, not in a "chugga chugga" way. The short songs are incredibly complex and feel very complete, considering a few are less than :30 seconds; the longer songs are very well strung together on progressive guitar lines and varied drumming.
"This is a Spark of Life" is a breath of fresh air in the stagnant world of hardcore, metalcore, whatever you choose to call it. Take it from a devotee of hardcore who is tired of bands who spend more effort on their wardrobe than their message. I don't know if everyone will like this; but for me, it certainly only makes me look forward to the full length, and hopefully to future tours. I guess that's some of the highest praise any EP can get.