Local metal review: Byzantine is back
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 09:02
Byzantine’s inaugural post-hiatus, self-titled release officially hit stores Tuesday and marked the return of West Virginia’s metal titans.
Picking up steam and gaining favor among even the most elitist of the very outspoken metal blogosphere, Byzantine is a band that is in the limelight more than it has been since releasing "Oblivion Beckons" all the way back in 2008.
While the album has been heavily anticipated by swaths of savvy fans lucky enough to have witnessed the talent this hidden gem of a band truly possesses, there are still some burning questions going into this one, as Byzantine no longer has the backing of a major record label.
Will the DIY-oriented recording process affect the band’s trademark sound?
What new stylistic influences will we see since the group has more room to experiment?
The first question was answered quickly and easily: no, not at all.
The album starts out in epic fashion.
On "Which Light Shall Never Penetrate," bombastic, long-note chords are accompanied by the arpeggio-laden leads of guitarist Tony Rohrbough, all building toward the eventual mad-banshee wail of vocalist Chris Ojeda.
Apparent from the get-go is the fact that Ojeda’s clean vocals and his gravel-throated hybrid vocals have changed a bit, offering up a bit more low end than on previous releases.
However, holding true to the two pre-release singles, "Soul Eraser" and "Signal Path," all the essential instrumental aspects of Byzantine remain alive and well.
The album has plenty of rhythmic palm-muted chugging, incredibly innovative sci-fi-esque leads and drumming that jumps back and forth from spastic and technical to sheer groovy perfection.
As is the case with all well-written albums, there is more than enough contrast in sound to keep the listener interested for the full 45 minutes of new music.
"Efficacy" is one standout track with cult-classic potential. Its descending, melodic acoustic introduction coupled with a primal vocal performance from Ojeda and a monumental grooving chord progression gives it character.
The track delves into a plethora of experimental sounds as well, with an eerie break in the middle.
Another great song, "Forged in the Heart of a Dying Star," wins my award for most awesome song title of the year thus far.
Containing a powder-keg pack of upper-register, harsh vocals and blast beats, it’s not your typical Byzantine song (if there is such a thing), but it also contains some familiar elements, such as a repeating low-end riff that serves to get the heads a nodding and some of the best, most emotive solo work on the album.
Injecting a dose of dissonance into the album is "Caldera," an intentionally abrasive, bizarre song that sounds as though the world is ending with its dissonant chords and spastic leads. It’s another welcome and successful variance in sound.
Things are quickly picked back up by "Pathogen," which is sure to please all of you thrash speed demons out there.
Actually the last tune in the order, a blistering pace is set from the word "go," as the band attempts to make you tap out before the album is truly over.
Bending riffs are definitely a nice touch at the end, and all in all, "Pathogen" is probably the most straightforwardly aggressive song on the album.
Overall, the boys in Byzantine have done very well for themselves on this latest release, crafting a work that stays true to their dedicated fans while simultaneously carving out its own niche within a quality-packed discography that will hopefully continue to grow for years to come.