(The long-awaited fourth album by West Virginia’s Byzantine is out now, and we’re delighted to provide a full stream of the new album along with TheMadIsraeli’s review.)
I wish I could find a way to adequately express how much I was absolutely frothing at the mouth in anticipation of this album. You’ve got to understand, this is a band who I musically idolized but who I thought had called it quits for good, and while I wasn’t originally stoked on the reunion since it lacked an integral founding member, his rejoining the band soon after sealed the deal for me. Byzantine were back in business and ass kicking was soon to follow.
I’ve sung the praises of this band to the high heavens on this site already, so if you are unfamiliar with these guys or have forgotten what they’re about, go read my Byzantine discography retrospective, which also included their three previous albums for download. Get educated.
Anyone who thinks that this album is a mere sequel to Oblivion Beckons would be sorely mistaken. These guys have been out of the band game for five years, but have still pursued music in a personal way and have thus evolved. What we have here isn’t a different Byzantine, but definitely a wiser, more sophisticated and diverse Byzantine.
This band still retain their crushing nature, their fire and ferocity, but it’s all been tempered into an exceptionally well crafted, finely honed weapon. I absolutely love this album, and am really enamored with how Byzantine stepped up their game for this comeback.
The album contains the classic Byzantine mixture of thrash, death, djent, metalcore, and Southern swagger, but these elements are now even more jumbled together to make something energizing, diverse yet consistent, and full of piss and vinegar. Chris Ojeda’s vocals have never sounded better, and the band plays shit on here that is heavier and faster than they ever have before. The dynamics have also been turned up, with a bit of an experimental edge in some places that’s extremely welcome.
The album’s opener “Of Which Light Shall Never Penetrate” sets the tone of the album definitively. Its epic intro with sweeping leads and thick chord walls are smashed into pieces by the song’s main reprising riff, a work of bad-fucking-ass thrash wizardry of a technical sort. The song’s main riff has a very Testament-like vibe, a thing I can get behind for sure. The riffs throughout this song are melodic, yet have a sharp, cutting edge and hit hard with just enough technical flare to keep the repeated parts interesting. The solo, courtesy of understated virtuoso Tony Rohrbough, has his signature awesome stamped all over it.
“Soul Eraser” is a stomping groove steamroller full of Southern swagger that’s just irresistibly catchy. That is, until its finale crashes through the gates, punishing the listener at breakneck speed. This song is definitely one of my favorites, mostly for its catchy chorus and, once again, for Rohrbough’s solos.
“Efficacy” is much of the same thing minus the Southern influence. An epic acoustic intro heralds one of the best songs on the album. The riffs are classic Byzantine, but something about the groove here is reminiscent of Gojira. The entire mid-section of this song is amazing, including its melodic progression, the solo, and Ojeda’s clean vocals over the established melody.
“Forged from the Heart of a Dying Star” brings back the Southern influence and is one of the most intense songs on the album. Its verse is a blistering breakneck thrash fest juxtaposed with infectious grooves and an unforgettable groove variant of the verse riff (introduced as the intro riff). I’d put this on the NCS 2013 most infectious song list if it were up to me. The part that really makes this song is its latter half, a very early 2000’s metalcore melodic section full of cool arpeggios and gorgeous instrumental layering.
Then there is “Caldera”, which is the fucking shit — a raucous thrasher full of dissonant, explosive riffs and boiling hot blood being pissed from the eye sockets. This whole song is awesome, from the opening salvo to the half-time breakdown variation of the verse riff to the (affectionately coined by Ojeda) Gojira armageddon death riff that takes up its last good chunk.
“Signal Path” is a more experimental song for Byzantine, but nonetheless an engrossing one. Taking on an oddly melodic approach, with a gripping atmosphere, this song mainly showcases Ojeda’s soulful clean crooning. It’s a more laid back number, but it’s still heavy and brings the goods.
“Everything I Touch Bursts into Blame” is a completely different story though. While the song may be carried by beefy grooves and snake-slither riffs, the weight of the song overall is immense. The melodic mid-section that leads into its solo is also really cool.
“Posthumous” is a really, really chill song for Byzantine but one of the coolest on the record. Slow, methodical, and laid back, the riffs are simple but poignant, and the chorus has a really badass mood to it.
This album couldn’t go out without a bang, of course, so it closes on the flesh-ripping “Pathogen”, a full speed ahead napalm trail searing thrasher full of fun riffs and a shitton of balls. It works as an ending to the album, and seals the deal quite nicely.
I love this band, I love this album, it’s going to stick with me all year and longer I’m sure. Oh yeah, and we’re streaming this beast below. Enjoy.
EDITOR’S NOTE: “Byzantine” can be ordered as a CD along with related merch at this location. The album is also now blowing up on iTunes and Amazon mp3.
I was one of their Kickstarter backers, so I was able to get this last week. Phenomenal album, and they don’t really sound like anybody else. I love the fact that you can’t say, “Well, they’re blah-blah-core or blackened-something-or-other.”
Maybe West Virginia-core?
I’m still waiting for my copy to arrive!
Did you get your link for backers to download a copy? If it got spam-filtered or something, they’d probably hook you up if you dropped them a line. I exchanged some e-mails with Chris about the guitar tab book, and he was both a gentleman and a scholar.
Well I already have the promo copy for NCS of course, so it’s not that I haven’t heard the album… I jsut crave the physical copy!
Shut up. Fine you like you. That’s wonderful. This is a fantastic album but quit being so goddamn smug about listening to music. Quit making up genres. Again, shut up.
Your discography post hooked me. Got this new one last night. There’s alot going on in this album. Can’t wait to see them live.
My copy came in the mail Monday. After two listens, I’m convinced it’s their best album yet, and would not be surprised to see it rank among the year’s best. Every song is memorable, and the band clearly did not sit on their musical haunches over the past 5 years.
Byzantine is hands doen my favorite band. I could never get tired of listening to them. The best part is that they came back because we the fans demanded it. We helped them and they returned. I dont know how much more respect a band could show its fans. Had the pleasure of driving from jersey to WV this weekend to see them and it was the most fun ive had in years. All the guys are really nice peoole as well. They care as much for us as we do from them. Spread the word people, Byzantine deserves it, and so do your ears!
MOSH-JERKER !!! it was epic !
The music obviously comes first, but it is indeed a big bonus when you have a band whose members genuinely seem to be nice, down-to-earth, caring people who have regrouped for the love of the music and the fans. This album has exploded on the iTunes and Amazon charts over the last 24 hours, and it’s a very cool thing to see success come to people like this.
The absolute best band that most have never heard of ! the record release show was awesome ! heres proof http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvvSt8IlUFY
HAIL BYZANTINE !!
Amazing album. Nice review.
I love the variety in Ojeda’s voice. And not just, like, switching between harsh and clean. Lots of singers can do that. Rather, it’s all the different degrees of harsh he brings to the mic.
I just put in an order yesterday, damn should have jumped on the Kickstarter wagon, but I’d never heard of these guys until that retrospective post you did.
Agh. I have the digital download but I’m waiting for my physical copy (plus tab book and shot glass) to show up. My resolve is slowly weakening though…
Did you get your stuff yet, Talvalin? If not, let me know what name you pledged under and I’ll check up on that ASAP. Thanks guys, I hate you all…
Finally got home and was able to crack this beast open. Holy shit! “Efficacy” kicks ass!
I think this band has some musical talent, but the singer sucks ass. The dude can’t sing, his bellows aren’t even good. And who the fuck puts clean vocals and does falsetto in their songs? I think some of the music on the new album is pretty good, riff wise. But the slow shit sucks. I’m sick of people creaming themselves over this band. It’s like people are afraid to say one fucking negative thing about them. Well I’m not!!!
Allen, you happen to know anyone named Steve Foster?
What kind of question is that? Also who are you?
OVER 4000 PLAYS IN 1 DAY !!!!! THIS BAND IS GODLIKE !!
Holy shit Byzantine is back in full force! It’s early in 2013 and this is album is already a contender for best of the year without a doubt. Heavy, groovy, melodic, all the things I have loved about Byzantine since first hearing them on ‘The Fundamental Component’. SO MANY RIFFS.
Welcome back Byzantine we missed the fuck out of you guys.
BYZANTINE!!!!!!!! have been a fan of these guys from the begining and im sooo glad to see their fan base growing and that they are back in full swing. i always knew these guys were gonna be a force to be reckoned with. in my opinion no one can compete with them because no one else is doing what they’re doing. this is exactly how you put metal back on the map!
wow pathogen is relentless
what the fuck i cant stop listening!!!!!