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West Virginia groove metal masters BYZANTINE have returned in 2013 after a five year absence since the release of 2008’s Oblivion Beckons. Frontman and band co-founder Chris “OJ” Ojeda has not missed a beat and definitely is at the top of his game here handling rhythm guitar and lead vocals on this slamming collection of head crushers. OJ’s voice brilliantly changes one moment from being brutally raspy to sounding perfectly clean in delivery the next. My favorite cuts are “Soul Eraser”, “Forged in the Heart of a Dying Star” and “Caldera”, which are highlighted by Tony Rohrbough’s considerable talents on lead guitar. The song “Signal Path” is about Tony’s recent brush with death and features the crazed drumming of Matt Wolfe and low end grumble by Michael “Skip” Cromer on bass. What I like so much about this album is how things go from being heavy as hell to totally Jazz mellow.

The coolest part of the story is that the band financed the production of this album with the help of fans, raising nearly $8,000 via a Kickstarter campaign in March of 2012. So it goes to show that though OJ and co. seemed to have gone away for good, the fans have spoken and literally brought them back from the dead. Any fans of Pantera, Meshuggah, Tool and Testament will simply love what they are doing. Very intelligent songwriting that crosses the vast rock landscape rarely seen in heavy music. I sure hope we don’t have to wait another half decade before they record some more powerfully inspiring tunes. This is one of metal’s all-time most underappreciated bands.


[starreview tpl=16]
BYZANTINE – “Byzantine” (CD)

(Gravedancer Records/2013)

1. Which Light Shall Never Penetrate
2. Soul Eraser
3. Efficacy
4. Forged in the Heart of a Dying Star
5. Caldera
6. Signal Path
7. Everything I Touch Bursts Into Flame
8. Posthumous
9. Pathogen