Album Review
by SashaS

Official website:

Print this article
  More on: Byzantine

Rock Me Baby!
  News - 31-3-2005
Byzantine: 'They Shall Take Up Serpents'
Byzantine: '... And They Shall Take Up Serpents'
Byzantine: solid tones and strong HM songs

And then there were three… Byzantine lost bassist before this recording and lead/rhythm guitarist Tony Rohrbough had to play the bass parts, as well. Not that you’d know it because it rocks, it really kicks and sounds h-u-g-e to make you think there is an army of players [t]here.

Nope, just the three of them: Chris Ojeda on vocal, guitar and keyboards, Tony and Matt Wolfe on drums and acoustic guitar. And, they are mighty: combining power, melody, aggression, solos to create quite a unique sounding disc. Byzantine have translated their interest in religion in American society, the idea of extraterrestrial life and Southern history/heritage into an unorthodox brand of heavy music.

“I think we have a knack for achieving a good balance of chaos and melody,” explains Byzantine singer/guitarist/keysman Ojeda. “The warthog chasing the butterfly.”

Such themes might bring to mind bands like Slayer, Meshuggah and Clutch but the band’s sound is informed with their love for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Overkill and “Chet Atkins”, claims the singer. It probably is the result of the members growing up in West Virginia because they could develop outside any genre and trends.

Without a dominating hometown scene dictating sound and style - no SoCal hardcore, no NYHC, etc. - Byzantine have been free to mould their fondness for bands like Testament and Black Sabbath into a particular hybrid that is neither regressive nor clichéd. The quartet’s debut full length, ‘The Fundamental Component’, came out last year but the second album is a mighty step forward.

It starts strong and monumental with ‘Justicia’ which sets the mood for the album but expect surprises, diversions and twists galore: the small clean break in the ‘Temporary Temples’ cut was recorded with a ‘Smokey Amp’ - a cigarette pack with a tweeter and a 9-volt battery inside it; Wolfe played the acoustic guitar intro to ‘Red Neck War’ and OJ played the piano intro to ‘Five Faces of Madness’.

Tony played rhythm guitars on ‘Justicia’, ‘Jeremiad’, ‘The Rat Eaters’ and ‘Ancestry of the Antichrist’ while OJ played rhythm on the rest of the album. ‘Taking Up Serpents’ sounds like it comes from the deepest entrails of hell, ‘Temporary Temples’ impresses with its infernal ‘choir’ and old-skool guitar [by Tony] over the post-modern rhythm… And all the way to the perdition, or the sonic claustrophobia of the concluding track, ‘Salem Ark’.

With all the theology floating around - the LP title is a quote from Jesus’ last words on Earth - after a couple instances of lights turning themselves on at night, OJ swore he heard a ghost in the bathroom and insisted on urinating outside for the rest of the recording sessions. Look out for it - the whole recording process and the band members were followed by a video camera for the making of a documentary coming out later this year.

Byzantine: vintage Metal artistry and contemporary HM principles. Chaos in the right measure!


Byzantine’s ‘And They Shall Take Up Serpents’ is released 11 July 2005 by Prosthetic