Most reviews on this site are either requested by bands or releases that I receive from labels or PR agents. This review is not that. I like when an album that I buy impresses me enough to WANT to write a review. The new Byzantine album “The Cicada Tree” is one of those albums. I got into this band a few years back when they reformed and released their self titled album. I was impressed and really enjoyed that album.
But the band upped their game on their last album “To Release Is to Resolve.” They have been a groove metal band from day one but on that last album they really developed a progressive side to their meaty riffs. As a result, the songs were stronger, the riffs were even better and the album as a whole kicked ass. It’s hard to believe it but their latest album “The Cicada Tree” takes things to an even HIGHER level!
When I listened to it the first time, I was blown away. Literally each song was a “holy shit this is good” moment. The mix and production are just incredible. The band’s playing has never been better. And the clean and harsh vocals from Chris “OJ” Ojeda and Brian Henderson fit each track perfectly. There is not a weak moment or wasted note on this entire album. Period.
I could go on and on about each track but I’ll highlight my personal favorites. “Dead as Autumn Leaves” is a very melodic, progressive track that might not be as “apeshit” as what comes before it, yet it’s still heavy and it showcases the band’s range and song writing talents. Along the same lines, the title track was one that made my jaw drop. There’s a level of depth to that track that most band’s can’t even approach. But then things actually get even BETTER with the NEXT track, the epic 9 minute “Verses of Violence.” Holy fucking shit! This song is a masterpiece. This song is what prog metal is about. Definite. The last 2 1/2 will melt your face.
As if that wasn’t enough, the next song is a cover of the Cars classic “Moving in Stereo.” Yes really. And it’s incredible!! I loved the Cars back in the day but Byzantine make the song their own but never lose the vibe of the original. Amazing version. I always say a band is only as good as their drummer and new guy Matt Bowles is the man. He pushes the band hard and it’s clear they are better for it. They sound tighter than ever!
For me, 2017 has been a sketchy year for music. Artists that I usually can count on for great albums have come up empty. So it’s really nice that Byzantine prove that if you are a hard working band, you can and will succeed. Not many bands have worked as hard as this West Virginia band and even if it’s takes 17 years for people to figure out how great they are, I am sure they will take it. “The Cicada Tree” is a fucking masterpiece and will be a contender for my album of the year for 2017.
1. New Ways to Bear Witness
2. Vile Maxim
3. Map of the Creator
4. Dead as Autumn Leaves
6. The Subjugated
8. The Cicada Tree
9. Verses of Violence
10. Moving in Stereo (The Cars)
11. Servitude (Fishbone)
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