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Byzantine - The Cicada Tree album review

Groove metal firepower from West Virginia veterans

Cover art for Byzantine - The Cicada Tree album

If things had been different, Byzantine would have been among the acknowledged leaders of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. As it is, they’ve been slightly sidelined, partly through their own actions (or more accurately inaction for four years from 2008). However, on this, their sixth album, the West Virginia foursome have a ferocious, groove-driven style that quickly shows a heavy, mid-paced mentality on New Ways To Bear Witness and Vile Maxim, with Brian Henderson agitating powerfully on guitar and Chris Ojeda’s vocals proving a raging torrent. For most of the time, the intensity is matched by focused melodies, making Incremental and the title track rigorous power metal workouts. The latter is the best thing here, mixing a staccato riff with some crooning vocals, plus the occasional acoustic touch. There are moments where the album slips, as with the tedious Dead As Autumn Leaves, but thankfully this is rare. And Servitude ends it all with a vibrant, almost funky motif. The Cicada Tree is not a classic album, but it’s more than solid.

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica (opens in new tab), published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009.