Review Summary: One of the most under-appreciated and underrated bands in metal continue to prove why it should not be so with another excellent slab of progressive-tinged, groovy thrash. The Byz is back!
The Byz is back! After an unfortunate and untimely break-up in the prime of their careers, Chris Ojeda and the gang returned with an absolute monster of a comeback with their 2013 self-titled album, and my personal top metal album of 2013. Now, the much anticipated follow-up “To Release Is To Resolve” is here, and boy, it delivers. After the departure of guitarist Tony Rohrbough and bassist Michael Cromer, the quality of future releases quickly came into question. However, newcomers Brian Henderson and Sean Sydnor have filled in nicely. Drummer Matt Wolfe is still a beast behind the kit, providing impressive fills and breakneck beats.
Rest assured, this is still Byzantine at its best. Chris, without a doubt, is the primary creative force behind the music. From the melodic leads and wild soloing to the intricate, technical thrash riffing, Chris’ songwriting talents are on full display here. In addition, Chris makes a strong case for one of the most versatile vocalists in metal, utilizing his high-pitched shrieks, brutal growls, melodic cleans, and his signature gravely, southern-fried barks with full effect, even after all these years.
I have seen complaints about the softer sections and clean singing present in this album. This is odd, considering Byzantine has always utilized softer sections and cleaning singing in its music sparingly without detracting from the overall quality of the songs. While the band has ventured a little farther into its progressive tendencies with this album, “To Release Is To Resolve” is chalk full of the greatness you would come to expect from one of the most talented, yet criminally under-appreciated acts in metal. Whether is it the bluesy progressiveness of “Justinian Code” and “Godforsaken,” the headbanging grooves of “A Curious Lot,” or the aggressive, unrelenting thrash of “The Agonies” and “You Sleep, We Wake,” this album delivers the entire Byzantine repertoire.
The loss of two members would make even the most diehard of fans worrisome about the quality of a band’s future material. However, this album has eliminated any doubts I may previously had. While their 2013 self-titled barely edges this out, “To Release Is To Resolve” is a classic Byzantine album, right up there with “And They Shall Take Up Serpents.” Since their reformation, Chris and the gang have been releasing the best music of their careers, and they show no signs of slowing down. You can’t beat the Byz!