Byzantine - Oblivion Beckons
Prosthetic Records
13 songs (53:58)
Release year: 2008
Byzantine, Prosthetic Records
Reviewed by Dylan
The news of Byzantine’s break-up earlier this year was as disappointing as it was unexpected. I’ve been a fan of the band ever since I heard 2005’s …And They Shall Take Up Serpents, which was a well-crafted and surprisingly fresh take on metalcore when it had already began to stagnate. It was definitely an improvement over The Fundamental Component; the band’s promising, but rough 2004 debut. Oblivion Beckons continues in the same direction as the last album, but still doesn’t seem to reach it’s full potential when the disc stops spinning.

Everyone sick of the Gothenburg influence that has spread to tons of American bands who have emerged as of late won't be repulsed here. Byzantine’s sound has been likened to a mix of Meshuggah and Pantera, with a very chugging ‘core…well…core. Some really shitty bands can have their roots traced back to those two bands, but Byzantine gets it right, for the most part.

Contrary to the way most metalcore bands work, Byzantine shines the brightest when vocalist / guitarist Chris Ojeda lets his melodic side show in the chorus. Listening to this right from the start, things start off very well. Absolute Horizon is quite a ho-hum intro track, but is immediately followed by the three best songs on the whole disc. Nadir is the thrashiest song on the album, giving off a thick Testament tone. Ojeda shines in the chorus, thanks in large part to this powerful voice that actually sounds like it has endured the rigorous of puberty, which is more than I can say for some of Byzantine’s contemporaries. Well…make that most of their contemporaries.

The title track is up next and has a grooving, chopped up riff that serves as a heavy guide that leads straight into the best vocal section on the whole album. Harmonizing with himself, Ojeda doesn’t take on a tone that isn’t as aggressive as he can, but chooses instead to sing with a much more melodic and anthemic voice that will stick with you after the song is over. This track also contains one of the better solos on the album, possessing a slight middle-eastern feel about it. The Gift of Discernment is probably the best overall song on the whole album, as it contains a quirky Meshuggah-ish main riff, and a hard rocking, Godsmack-tinged chorus. The outro to this song has to be heard by everyone at least once. You’ll never feel so soothed, yet so depressed in the space of one minute.

As for the rest of the album….it’s a mixed bag. For the most part, it’s chopped up breakdowns woven in with very tasteful solos and the occasional melodic riff. Tracks 5-7 all seem to blend together into one derivative blur, only to be interrupted by the short, yet interesting acoustic interlude of Renovatio.

Highlights come in the form of Centurion, which contains yet another fine vocal performance from Ojeda. By now, I’ve noticed that the band as a whole seems to churn out better riffs and catchier rhythms when they engage in melodic outbursts such as this. The band as a whole isn’t mind-blowingly impressive, but opts to take the role of one big instrument, locked together to optimize the groove. The only problem with this approach is that boredom can begin to set in if you aren’t paying attention, which becomes harder to do as you realize there are thirteen songs to digest. If five of them were cut out, the album would not have suffered a great loss.

Looking at the whole picture, I would have to call Oblivion Beckons a worthwhile album in the end. It cuts back a bit on the heaviness present in …And They Shall Take Up Serpents, and heads in a slightly more melodic, occasionally progressive direction. This feels like a really good bridge album, despite the fact that the bridge leads nowhere now. In the end, Byzantine goes out with not a bang, or a whimper, but a really loud pop, which is better than lots of bands could say of their final hour.
Killing Songs :
Nadir, Oblivion Beckons, The Gift of Discernment, and Centurion.
Dylan quoted 73 / 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 - The Fundamental Component reviewed by Jay and quoted 68 / 100
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