Byzantine

Oblivion Beckons

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Metal's recombinant energy has scarcely been more fluid than on Oblivion Beckons. On their third full-length, West Virginia quartet Byzantine synthesize the last 20 years of metal into an incredibly colorful, vibrant whole: '80s thrash rolls into '90s groove metal, which yields to Meshuggah's math meters, which cycle back around to straight-up '80s metal. The result evokes a brainier, and much less predictable, Lamb of God -- and therefore Pantera. Essentially, Oblivion is one long highlight reel. Jaw-dropping leads and headbang-able riffs erupt in such profusion that the record is a primer on state-of-the-art guitar playing. The sonic diversity is astounding. Clean tones, acoustic guitars, and lyrical Steve Vai Lydian modes whirl around swaggering, syncopated riffing that never sacrifices groove for technicality. "Nadir" thunders with hard-charging triplets; "Catalyst" tosses off melodic death metal so flawlessly that it humbles actual practitioners of the sound. Previous album ...And They Shall Take Up Serpents was also a riff bonanza, but Oblivion fixes the one thing wrong with that record: vocals. Before, Chris Ojeda's vocals sounded off, like he was singing the wrong song. Here, not only do his melodies match the riffs, he also expands his palette. Tough growls, sonorous singing, and even a witchy screech push the songs to near-ecstatic heights. This is a band at the top of its game, and perhaps its genre -- and tragically, it broke up mere days after releasing this record. Oblivion may beckon, but it'll take a while with a legacy this impressive.

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