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Friday, January 04, 2008

CD Review: Byzantine - Oblivion Beckons

Byzantine - Oblivion Beckons
2008 Prosthetic Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



This may be a record; only four days into the new year and already we have a seriously legit contender for a year-end finalist. Those who have read my work here and in the magazines can attest I'm totally gay for West Virginia's Byzantine. As perhaps America's most overlooked metal band, let this little manifesto serve you notice: turn your ears in this band's direction now. I can't put it any simpler than that.

On their third album Oblivion Beckons, the progressive thrashers have turned themselves from artisans into masters of their trade, weaving their jackhammer constructs into something of greater magnitude. Each song on Oblivion Beckons is a viable package unto themselves, each to be opened and sifted through the bubble wrap holding them snugly and savored by the cubicle layers that are carefully placed for your perusual.

There's little to no predictability on Oblivion Beckons, be it the soaring choruses of the title song that sneak out of a pounding thrash core, or the way "The Gift of Discernment" sails between a marching metallic blast filled with passionate roaring from vocalist/guitarist OJ and ends on a dreamy soliloquy.

There's no end to the possibilities on Oblivion Beckons, so much you can hear Byzantine having such delight between themselves, and every single time you think you've figured them out, they raise the bar by luxuriating their rhythms with deeper layers and articulate solos the way "Expansion and Collapse" does to sincere wonderment or the way "Pattern Recognition" rattles you with its pulsing introduction then settles into a madhouse growling groove that again rises expressively, delving into a gorgeous progressive breakdown that's almost indescribable.

It's as if Byzantine feels the need to atone for every brutal moment they expunge by knitting apposite beauty and grandeur. Never mind the soothing acoustic interlude of "Renovatio," where they recruit the assistance of Bill Dean to lend it extra cadence; the way Byzantine smoothly transcends the thrash lacings of "All Hail the End Times" by projecting a boundless sensation so much it almost feels astral... What more can I say to sell you on this album?

Alright, how about the whirling cascade surrounding the measured speed of "Deep End of Nothing" or the way Byzantine wraps up this amazing effort with a jacked fusing of Rush, Anthrax and Iron Maiden into their ensconced prog slamming on "A Residual Haunting?"

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; the last time I felt this strongly about a band's undeniable capacity for metal supremity it was Mastodon. With Byzantine, the lightning has not only stricken twice, it's gathered a tornado in its wake. Crucially recommended...

Rating: ****1/2

3 comments:

cjk_44 said...

this is a great album.

but didn't i see a bulletin somewhere that these guys have called it quits?

The RIpple Effect said...

Ray - you're not the only one gay for Byzantine. I'm out of the closet with you. When I stumbled on this disc, I damn near broke my ankles tripping over it as I ran to my local record store for their first two! This is the metal band that I had spent what feels like a life time looking for. The time signatures, the complex arrangements, the aggression. All of it working in conjunction with one another make this band the fix that I needed.

I was bummed to no end when I found out they broke up days after the release of this disc. F'n tragedy!

Great review and thanks for swingin' by and leaving the great comments on the Ripple! Glad you liked the Great Space Coaster reference on Farflung. You killed me with the Gary Gnu ref. I had completely forgotten about that dude.

Pope JTE

Anonymous said...

I forgot where I heard of Byzantine, but I have listened to Oblivion Beckons ALOT.

Centurion is one of my favorites songs ever, and there isn't a song on the album that is bad.

I also dig the atheist message.

The dogs of war are baying for the corpses of soldiers marching at the front lines!