Byzantine - The Fundamental Component
Prosthetic Records
Technical Metalcore
10 songs (52:25)
Release year: 2004
Byzantine, Prosthetic Records
Reviewed by Jay

For me, metalcore can be hit or miss. Usually it misses but the hits can be spectacular. Byzantine, while not hitting manages not to miss either. Their debut full length is a mish-mosh of influences running the gamut from Meshuggah to Arch Enemy to Biohazard. My first exposure to the West Virginia natives came at last year’s New Jersey Metal and Hardcore Fest where they had a short set on the second stage. They did put a lot of passion into their live set and their singer seemed pretty on the mark.

The vocals on this album are above average for a metalcore album. They are more reminiscent of Phil Anselmo than anything else. Singer Chris Ojeda not only manages to be forceful with his delivery but balances the attack well with great clean vocals. Unlike many other metalcore acts, Ojeda really does have a quality singing voice and is not afraid to use it. It hearkens back to Anselmo with hints of non-falsetto Matt Barlow. This is best showcased on tracks like “Brundlefly” and “Kill Chain.” The guitars are a sticking point, while occasionally complex, they fall into the same rut that many bands seem to. There is very little melody and instead grinding and pulsatile guitar is favored. This certainly alludes to Meshuggah, especially their last release. The music does have a Biohazard flavor at points especially in the guitar sound and fast moments of brutality that occasionally crop up. However, the bass sound, I feel is tuned slightly too low. It becomes hard to distinguish from the double bass and I found at times it was attempting to destroy my subwoofer. The drum work is standard and even more impressive since the drummer is only in his third year of practice behind the kit. The mix is less than impressive. Guitar tracks frequently get lost and the sounds blend together entirely too much at points. This aspect of the recording is a real obstacle for this band. With a better engineer and mixer, this could have been a much better album.

The album starts off with a song called “Hatfield” which is about the ancestral feuding clan from the South. For those who don’t know, there were two large families in the Southern U.S. in the 1800’s, the Hatfields and the McCoys. They had a huge grudge and fought each other for decades upon decades. The feuding finally ceased when the younger generations could no longer remember why the families hated each other so. The guitar in this song can be annoying at times, especially when playing the frantic introduction. “Stoning Judas” is certainly one of the more energetic songs and is a genuine killing track. The motor guitar is juxtaposed against the pulsatile guitar work and the result is intriguing. Shades of Testament as well as Arch Enemy are felt. Arch Enemy influence figures prominently into the track “Sin Remover” whose intro is quite similar to the opening of “Enemy Within.” Death vocals abound and the solo here is very eerie again owing to Meshuggah. “Kill Chain” is another good track with Byzantine’s strange blend of music. Almost funky at parts, it is a departure from the rest of the album while maintaining the flow quite well. It’s a shame some of the guitar work is lost because it sounds really good here and the solos are mind-bending. Ojeda’s clean vocals shine through here as well. He’s amazingly forceful and you can really feel the emotion he puts into his singing.

This is a really good debut. With a little more creativity, some better bass work and more money for a better mix, Byzantine could take the American metal scene by storm. It seems as though things on this side of the Atlantic are beginning to pick up finally.

Killing Songs :
Kill Chain, Stoning Judas, Hatfield
Jay quoted 68 / 100
Other albums by Byzantine that we have reviewed:
Byzantine - To Release is to Resolve reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Byzantine - Byzantine reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Byzantine - Oblivion Beckons reviewed by Dylan and quoted 73 / 100
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