(We present TheMadIsraeli’s review of the new album by West Virginia’s Byzantine, scheduled for release by Metal Blade on July 28.)
When Byzantine basically slowly imploded after their fantastic self-titled comeback I’ve no shame in admitting I was super-concerned about what would happen. I knew Chris Ojeda wanted to continue on, it was his baby, he’s the reason Byzantine exists, but the “OG” lineup of Byzantine, the one people remember, was pretty hard to beat and had some uniquely talented musicians in it, stylistically. Lead guitarist Tony Rohrbough would be especially the hardest element to replace, as his angular jazz-fusion-esque approach to soloing over the thrash/math-metal/southern-swagger juggernaut of the Byzantine sound served as the final piece in the band’s musical jigsaw puzzle that saw the whole thing come together.
To Release Is To Resolve, the band’s first album with its current line-up, was a great record, but one that had a lot of jagged edges on it as the effort to incorporate the new blood’s musical talents and tendencies hadn’t quite yet been worked out. Brian Henderson’s guitar playing was far more melodic and hook-oriented than Rohrbough’s, and Ojeda had bassist Sean Sydnor, who was much more technically skilled at his instrument than Michael Chromer, to account for. It was still Byzantine in all of the right ways, and even saw the band visiting more progressive pastures in light of the absence of Tony Rohrbough, who was a zealot for cutting songs down to the absolute minimum efficiency possible.
An evolution was definitely on the horizon, and I was eager to hear what would come next. Original drummer Matt Wolfe is now out of the picture since To Release…, making Ojeda officially the only original Byzantine member left in the band. Matt Bowles has stepped into the kit position, and he brings with him a greater degree of technical prowess.