This record should have catapulted BYZANTINE to the forefront of the modern Metal scene. It won’t, though. I’ll explain why at the end.
“Oblivion Beckons” is BYZANTINE’s third album, and shows the band with enough sense to write catchy Metal songs with plenty of hooks on all departments, while not sacrificing their desire to explore different musical territories or song structures. No, this isn’t a Pop record. It’s Thrash Metal, written by a smarter, more mature yet still pissed off band.
Let’s start off with the guitar work. It’s melodic enough for to engrave itself in your skull, while still having a lot of groove for you to bang your head to. The band has clearly studied a lot of the heavier sub-genres of Metal and Hardcore, because the amount of influences that are heard on the record is astonishing. BYZANTINE doesn’t plagiarize, though. They take in these influences and channel them to write music that is in their vision. The guitar work is a mix of PANTERA, MESHUGGAH, CARCASS, KREATOR, DEW-SCENTED with some STRAPPING YOUNG LAD thrown in, and this mutation that is created embodies what mainstream Metal should be like. It has enough melodic sense to be, you know, CATCHY but is still absurdly heavy. The solo work is very creative as well, with the guitar player showing his chops while never going into the “wanking” territory, a symptom that plagues many lead guitar players. The best part, though, is how the transitions through the various songs are so smooth. The changes in tempo, mood, style, feel, etc are incredibly smooth, just showing how these men are craftsmen of the song.
One of the other high selling points of BYZANTINE are the vocals. They are chameleon-esque, going from screams to growls to singing to shouts. The diversity shown in the music is reflected in the vocals, with the vocal lines often intensified the atmosphere the riffs sets down. The clean vocals do sound comical at times, like in the chorus of “Oblivion Beckons”, but this is just a minor occurrence, because 99% of the time, the man is DEAD ON.
If someone asks me what new band embodies what modern Metal should sound like, I would mention BYZANTINE without any hesitation.
Why won’t “Oblivion Beckons” catapult BYZANTINE into the forefront of the Thrash Metal/Heavy Metal scene? Well, about a week after this album hit store shelves, the band broke up. It means any momentum that this album builds will be for naught, because it is the last body of work the band released.
What a high note to go out on.
(Online March 3, 2008)