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Byzantine have gone through a drastic *ahem* transformation over the last few years. Well, we could almost call it an implosion, really, with how many members have come and gone. Aside from himself, Chris Ojeda’s baby is now without any of the original key players, and especially concerning was lead guitarist Tony Rohrbough’s departure. His style was something you cannot emulate or replace, so a change in musical direction was imminent. Which really is a shame because most felt that Byzantine’s self-titled comeback album was a fantastic collection of songs. 2015 gave us a piece of the puzzle with ‘To Release is to Resolve’, which saw a new look Byzantine belt out a different direction; however, one with lots of jagged edges. So, where do we go from here? Sole survivor Chris Ojeda on vocals, Brian Henderson returns with his melodic, hook-orientated guitars, Sean Sydnor thwaps the bass, with Matt Bowles stepping into the kit position on drums. Let’s dive headfirst into this new offering, shall we…

Eleven tracks are structured in such a way to present us with such a brilliant variation from one harsh thrashy overtone that evolves into something more refined like a fine wine. ‘New ways to Bear Witness’ starts us off with classic style thrash, with upbeat tempo and high energy that flows so easily into ‘Vile Maxim’, which exacts the same energetic nature that Byzantine is best known for. ‘Map of the Creator’ takes a slight turn that introduces us to a more progressive view on the tried and true flavour of their works.

‘Dead as Autumn Leaves’ is progressive metal. Straight up. All clean vocals, it includes some impressive keys and some brilliant transitioning from soft to heavy. This track awakens the soul to a new era in which Byzantine’s evolutionary road has taken a turn. So very impressed with this, honestly, fantastic song. I think this traverses very well into the strongest portion of the album with ‘Trapjaw’, ‘The Subjugated’, and ‘Incremental’. These tracks show the raw guttural talent that oozes from within this core group. We have classic thrash riffs, old school Meshuggah influences, and near death metal with Ojeda’s roars.

This album grows into a deeper tale of epic riffs all throughout and this is evident in the title track, ‘The Cicada Tree’. This is arguably the most progressively quiet track on the entire release. The chorus is catchy and works so well as a transition track into the final closing songs. ‘Verses of Violence’ is a 9-minute epic with terrific twists and turns not yet heard in a “Byz” track. It’s incredible! This works so well as an epic, grand finale! Those that are into bonus tracks will also enjoy the covers of ‘Moving in Stereo’ and ‘Servitude’.

First impressions leave one feeling somewhere above average and below stellar but, with each additional listen to the complete ‘The Cicada Tree’ album, it somehow becomes more and more clear at just how much effort was put into this release. The transition from each track thrashing from beginning to growing into a more progressive offering. Byzantine has a discography and a following of loyal fans that emphasizes on southern-swagger/thrash/power and this new release will not disappoint those expecting more of that, but it doesn’t stop there! ‘The Cicada Tree’ blasts Ojeda and crew into a new comfort zone… the evolution of Byzantine is complete and the future is looking bright!
Metal Blade
Review by Joshua Jaeger
28th July 2017
1) New Ways to Bear Witness
2) Vile Maxim
3) Map of the Creator
4) Dead as Autumn Leaves
5) Trapjaw
6) The Subjugated
7) Incremental
8) The Cicada Tree
9) Verses of Violence
10) Moving in Stereo
11) Servitude
"‘The Cicada Tree’ blasts Ojeda and crew into a new comfort zone… the evolution of Byzantine is complete and the future is looking bright!"