Byzantine

The Fundamental Component

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Right from the very start -- which, for all intents purposes, was signaled by their 2004 debut album, The Fundamental Component -- West Virginia's Byzantine were doing their chosen name justice by serving up a veritable smorgasbord of existing musical styles, torn asunder and reconstructed in sometimes curious, often startling new ways. For the most part, though, the resulting Frankenstein owed most of its body parts to the groove-laden work of Pantera, the tricky time signatures of Meshuggah, and the bandmembers' own thrash and death metal past lives (see prime examples "Stick Figure" and "My New Casket"). But, even at this early stage, Byzantine were already trying to break away from these dominant influences, and their best efforts -- including "Hatfield," "Sin Remover," "The Devil's Arithmetic," and the amusingly named, "The Filth of Our Underlings" (which literally sounded like Rush, at times) -- were usually characterized by unexpected dynamic shifts, unveiling truly progressive and exploratory melodic passages. Alas, much of the remaining material -- though rife with sporadic bright spots -- seemed torn by the gravitational pull of two, very distinct eras in the evolution of heavy metal: the fast-emerging metalcore movement and the nu metal fashion plate it was dethroning (although Byzantine never actually resorted to rapping). Thus, amid all of their other creative ambitions, the group couldn't resist tinkering with the hard/soft textures and harsh/clean vocals typical of the former on "Stoning Judas" and "Kill Chain," nor the vestigial rhythmic and atonal devices of the latter on "Slipping on Noise" and "Brundlefly" -- ultimately to distraction. Consequently, The Fundamental Component is generally viewed as Byzantine's least consistent and focused album, but that hasn't stopped die-hard fans from championing it for those very same reasons, and, in any case, it's quite a strong statement for a brand new band.

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