Byzantine are one of those bands that are either underrated to those that appreciate them, or unlucky or unknown to others. Despite being around 17 years, this is only their sixth album. Some who call the band unlucky may have to look at the fact that the band split on the dawn of their third release for two years as a reason for why they are where they are in the grand scheme of things.
Momentum is everything in Metal, and they had a few people looking over the fence in their direction after their second album, And They Shall Take Up Serpents, which had something about it, but they didn’t land hard then unfortunately. Now in the arms of Metal Blade Records, one can hope for some more exposure for these West Virginian stalwarts. This album has a lot about it, it has variety, it has metal riffs that your sore neck won’t immediately thank you for. Check out the swagger and groove in ‘Vile Maxim,’ for example, that song will punch the ears clean off you.
The band drop it down a gear for the next song with a ballad, ‘Map of the Creator,’ but it does get vicious again in that song. Lead singer and guitarist “OJ” showcases that he is probably too good a singer just to growl. He has improved a lot over the years, and while some may say there are too many clean vocals on the album, it actually works in contrast. There is plenty of variety here in terms of pacing and styles. ‘Dead As Autumn Leaves’ follows that, and is close to 7 minutes in length. It builds and twists from a gentle twang of the guitars into one of the best songs in the album, a track that whips you from one wall to the other, whilst holding you close for a hug after.
The album works its way towards Meshuggah in sound for the next three songs after, the guitar battering and ramming, but not moving a million miles away from a band like Demon Hunter in the vocal range. The album’s title track is a nice wee groove-laden journey that is as melodic as one could ever want, and probably the catchiest thing on here.
Commercial sounding haters may dislike the next track, ‘Verses of Violence,’ which has a “Staind meets Five Finger Death Punch” quality. Repeat listens showcase a very memorable song that fits in at the right time and place. With that being said, the final two minutes of this song would take the eyelids off you with the fury. It’s worth it.
We leave the album with the final two tracks. ‘Moving in Stereo’ is very much Nu Metal in sound, and doesn’t quite rise beyond generic. The album closer ‘Servitude’ snaps at your neck and showcases one talented technical band, which is clear the whole way through. These are all proper songs here, not a blast of noise that needs serious dissecting for clues of how good the songs can be. It’s a fine album, and the lads deserve serious credit for it.
Byzantine The Cicada Tree is out now via Metal Blade Records.
Review By Sean-Paul
- ‘New Ways to Bear Witness’ (00:00)
- ‘Vile Maxim’ (05:02)
- ‘Map of the Creator’ (09:12)
- ‘Dead As Autumn Leaves’ (14:34)
- ‘Trapjaw’ (21:16)
- ‘The Subjugated’ (25:53)
- ‘Incremental’ (31:50)
- ‘The Cicada Tree’ (36:43)
- ‘Verses of Violence’ (42:20)
- ‘Moving in Stereo’ (51:27)
- ‘Servitude’ (55:58)