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Byzantine The Fundamental Component

Byzantine - The Fundamental Component
01. Hatfield (MP3)
02. Stick Figure
03. Stoning Judas
04. My New Casket
05. Sin Remover
06. Slipping on Noise
07. Kill Chain
08. The Devil’s Arithmetic
09. Brundlefly
10. The Filth of Our Underlings
2004 Prosthetic Records

Reviewed by: Rob McFeters   //   Published: 3/19/2004

About a year ago, I went with my friends Nick and Barker to see Lamb of God in Atlanta. We were hanging out on their bus, drinking beers, and somehow we were talking about bands that used drum machines. Randy (pardon the name drop) told us that we needed to hear this band he knew called Byzantine, who happened to use a drum machine. It was just a demo, but it was actually quite good, and I couldn’t even tell that a drum machine was being used. Now a year later, Byzantine has a real drummer, released their first full-length on Prosthetic Records, and I can’t believe how much better this band has become.

If Lamb of God, Pantera, Meshuggah, and Slayer were a dysfunctional family, then Byzantine would be the bastard child they would be fighting custody battles over. I know it is still very early in 2004, but I’ll be so bold as to say that this will have to be one of the most dynamic metal albums to be released this year. Each song is like a twisted ride down Byzantine’s musical influences. One moment the listener is pummeled with a brutal, southern riff, then the next with a choppy, slightly off-time, trashy riff. Other songs blast straight ahead with absolutely no regard for the listener. It’s an exciting listen, when I’m grooving to some Slayer-influenced riffs, then I’m smashed into a brick wall with an abrupt change into one of the most violent breakdowns I’ve ever heard (see “Stick Figure”). The guitar solos throughout “The Fundamental Component” stand out, and have strong "Chaosphere"-era, Meshuggah overtones. The song “Stoning Judas” could almost pass for a Pantera cover song, but there is an eerie melody to the song that sets it apart. Throughout the entire record there is a subtle, yet noticeable, Southern-rock influence, which I think is great.

Byzantine’s drummer, Wolfe, must be a big Pantera fan, because his style is very reminiscent of Vinnie Paul. I really like the choppy use of the double kick, and the tones the drums were recorded with.

O.J.’s vocals are wonderfully dynamic. From a high, shrieking screams, to midrange yells, to low-end roars, he retains total power and force. Byzantine also brought a few friends aboard to record some guest vocals, and most of the time it blends really well. One of these guys is almost a dead-ringer for Phil Anselmo. However, my one complaint is a vocal dynamic used on the songs “Kill Chain,” and “Brundlefly.” It sounds just like the guy from that band Disturbed that I keep seeing on Headbanger’s Ball, and there is no note of either of these songs using guest vocals, so it has to be someone in the band. Luckily, it doesn’t last for too long, but it just makes me cringe.

The production of “The Fundamental Component” leaves a little bit to be desired, but is by no means bad. The low-end could be brought up, because the guitars just sound a little to thin. Other than that it is quite adequate.

Bottom Line: Any fan of heavy metal should love this album, because there is something for everyone. If this album doesn’t send Byzantine to the front of the American metal scene, then something is wrong with metal in general. Since I could recommend this album to fans of Lamb of God, Meshuggah, or Pantera, I really wouldn’t be able to understand how any heavy metal lover couldn’t get into this. This is already one of my picks for 2004's best.


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