Byzantine – The Cicada Tree (Metal Blade)

Tuesday, 18th July 2017
Rating: 9/10

Everyone’s favorite metallic underdog, West Virginia’s Byzantine, are back with their sixth offering with the fittingly titled The Cicada Tree. Some growing legions have shown their ardent support for the act over the past few years, and after two self-release albums after the band’s reformation, last year they signed with Metal Blade Records. But is The Cicada Tree strong enough to allow their emergence from the underground?

Well, the final judgement will be after the album’s release, but if there’s justice left in the world, there will be at least an uptick in Byzantine’s following, as The Cicada Tree represents what is possibly their strongest release to date. The band has been tossed in with the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement for quite some time, they are a bit more than that. For all of their love of grooves (of which there are some particularly inspired ones on “Trapjaw” and “Vile Maxim”), their progressive side has blossomed in later releases, and is a true highlight of The Cicada Tree. There’s the slow build-up of “Map of the Creator” that goes from emotive and gentle to a more punishing and punchy climax that is entirely satisfying. Keeping with the more melodic theme is that of “Dead as Autumn Leaves,” which finds a way to keep things heavy at times (literally and emotionally) by taking a groovy hook to meld with more progressive structures. Likewise, “Verses of Violence” uses some absolutely soaring riffs and vocal hooks and counters them with more abrasive riffs that stick in your head, making the 9-minute track a complete journey that welcomes repeated visits. On the heavier end of the spectrum, the album is rounded out with cuts like “The Subjugated,” which seems to ooze darkened atmosphere, and “Incremental,” where a jazzy solo has a welcome impact on the churning, near-hypnotic riffage that embodies the track. As clichéd as it is to say, there’s something interesting to be found about each of the album’s tracks.

The Cicada Tree provides the stylings and memorability that Byzantine has been known for, but still allows with a few intriguing twists. In short, exactly what you’d expect from the band. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser among fans, and with Metal Blade’s reach, hopefully one that sees Byzantine getting more of the accolades that they’ve been deserving of for years.

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