The cicada, an insect with a 17 year lifespan, spends the majority of its life laying dormant underground; only emerging to morph, mate, give birth, and die. July 28th the cicada cycle began again with the release of The Cicada Tree by metal aficionados Byzantine; after spending 16 long years in the underground scene the group was signed to Metal Blade and emerged, much like the cicada, from the clandestine pits of the metal underworld. The Cicada Tree is a timeless mix of rock and metal; heavy enough to please hardcore headbangers and just catchy enough to accommodate those that enjoy the more radio friendly variety of rock and metal.
The Cicada Tree kicks off with the track “New Ways to Bear Witness”, which begins with an almost “Holy Diver”-esque guitar riff, you almost expect the first words to be ‘wooooo yeahhhh yeah’, but that isn’t what happens….nope, not at all. What actually comes next is a heavy yet funky beat and then suddenly all hell breaks loose. The track picks up a tremendous amount of speed and vocalist Chris Ojeda’s gritty vocals come at you like a semi-truck. Primal, high-energy, groovy, and heavy. A seriously sick track to set the stage for what is to come. Track two, “Vile Maxim”, is equally as heavy; beaming with thrash, (dare I say) hair, and a splash of progressive metal influences…yet another rager. These boys have set the bar high and I am only two tracks in.
At the tail end of the The Cicada Tree the vibe changes, it is seemingly less thrashy and much more rock, nu metal, and metalcore in nature. The title track, “The Cicada Tree” begins with a very Tool feel, but transforms into a more Alter Bridge sound; chill yet funky. “Verses of Violence” really showcases Ojeda’s vocal prowess. His vocals morphing from a sound reminiscent of Trivium, to the Deftones, and then to Killswitch Engage mixed with Gojira (yes, I know…..it makes absolutely no sense, so listen to the track so it will).
Then it arrives, Byzantine’s moment of reckoning….a cover, but not just any cover, a ‘gigantic shoes to fill’ type cover. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I frickin’ love new wave, power pop legends The Cars….yes, it is possible for someone who loves heavy metal to also adore other genres of music (fight me). The Cars combined humorous music videos with amazing, new wave tunage on MTV in the 80’s (back when MTV actually played music) and when I saw that Byzantine covered The Cars “Moving in Stereo”, I got a little nervous. A relatively heavy group covering a new wave favorite of mine? My initial thought was that they were going to ruin it, I am still not sure why this was a thought, I had been thoroughly impressed with The Cicada Tree thus far….but it was a thought nonetheless. But slap my ass and call me Sally, guess what? THEY FUCKING NAILED IT! There are very few bands that are successful at taking a cover, making it their own, and killing it…but Byzantine did it. Seriously, their cover of “Moving in Stereo” is quite possibly better than the original and I am not ashamed to say that. The riffage is simply infectious and the vocals are crisp, clean, and cool as ice. Fucking stellar job boys, standing ovation, and all that jazz!
The Cicada Tree is 62 minutes of groove-laden, jazz-infused, melodic ruthlessness that doesn’t prescribe itself to a single genre, it is everywhere and everything. Byzantine has had their fair share of ups and downs, Ojeda being the only original member for starters, but the trials and tribulations that have kept the band flying just below the radar of mainstream music for the last 17 years has paid off ten-fold. Their sixth release is a fucking winner and they deserve to be thrust into the limelight, they have definitely earned it.
The Cicada Tree is available now, so grab a copy today!
FFO: Alter Bridge, Shadows Fall, Trivium
New Ways to Bear Witness
Map of the Creator
Dead as Autumn Leaves
The Cicada Tree
Verses of Violence
Moving in Stereo
Chris Ojeda – Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Brian Henderson – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Sean Sydnor – Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Matt Bowles – Drums
Bloodrock Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 axes
Written by April Baggins for Bloodrock Media on August 9, 2017
#byzantine #thecicadatree #metalbladerecords #bloodrockmedia