…And They Shall Take Up Serpents: Byzantine

CoverbyzserpentsRating: 90%

I have always enjoyed the Heavy Metal scene in the region. For me, growing up, bands like Wrathchild America, Clutch, and Kix among others was a good thing. Well, Byzantine is no different hailing from Charleston, WV. They have a unique style that take Thrash, Groove, and Prog Metal and blending it together to make their sound. “…And They Shall Take Up Serpents” released in 2005 is the second studio album by the band. It literally can stand up and go head to head to In Flames, Pantera, and or Mastodon paying homage to the 1990’s Groove Metal.

Musically, the tempos are slower than that of Thrash, more aggressive and tight. It has some outstanding rhythms and leads. Some of the scales are interesting. The riffs are very heavy, but polished. The vocal style is very close to In Flames where the main verse is harsh with clean chorus lines. Lyrically, the album talks about life in West Virginia from the “Redneck War” when the coal miners rose up against coalmines themselves to the religious practice of taking up serpents in the name of God.

The musicianship is pretty tight overall. You have Chris “OJ” Ojeda on vocals, guitars, and piano. Tony Rohbrough on guitars as well as bass. Matt Wolfe on drums and acoustic guitar.

Track listing:

1. “Justicia” 4:07

2. “Taking Up Serpents” 3:12

3. “Jeremiad” 6:00

4. “Ancestry of the Antichrist” 5:54

5. “Temporary Temples” 4:59

6. “Five Faces of Madness” 5:29

7. “Red Neck War” 5:39

8. “Pity None” 3:58

9. “The Rat Eaters” 4:31

10. “Salem, Ark” 4:31

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Souls At Zero: Souls At Zero

souls at zero.jpgRating: 90%

After being drop from their record label in 1992, Wrathchild America changed their name for a fresh start. The end result was Souls At Zero. The new album was released in 1993, the third for guys, the debut for the new name. Losing more of the Thrash Metal sound and faster tempos, Souls At Zero began experimenting with Groove Metal with the Prog influence. The end result is a record that falls perfectly in line with Wrathchild America’s “3-D” which is where this album picks up as.

Brad Divens sounds the same with his graspy vocal style. His bass playing is killer. He really lays down some funky bass lines. Guitarists Jay Abbene and Terry Carter play some very tight riffs that has a bit of crunch. You can hear more of an experimental with other genres of music in the guitars. The guitar leads and fills are top notch. Shannon Larkin just kills it on drums. For an older band with a new image and name, these guys are playing tighter, more aggressively than previously. The Thrash element has almost ceased to exist.

Track listing:

1. “Frustration” 4:37

2. “Never” 5:22

3. “Look” 4:16

4. “Hardline” 4:40

5. “Lost” 6:19

6. “Checkin’ Out” 4:20

7. “Souls at Zero” 5:37

8. “Grey World” 4:28

9. “Not You” 6:10

10. “Crowded Head” 4:35

11. “Welcome to the 90s” 4:18

12. “Mind’s Eye” 8:34

3-D Man: Wrathchild America

Rating: 100%

Wrathchild_America_-_3-DIf there was an album that is completely under rated by the Heavy Metal world, then “3-D Man” released in 1991 by Wrathchild America is such an album. This album is the second album released by the band which is among my favorite all-time heavy metal albums. It’s jazzy, it’s got thrash and it also has some groove to it. The band really put something together that flows nicely and sounds awesome. Brad Divens vocal and bass work as far as I am concerned, is amazing. Terry Carter’s and Jay Abbene’s guitars sound good. Shannon Larkin’s drumming to me is a work of art.

Musically, the album features some of the best offbeats and fast tempos that came out of the 1990’s. Structurally, the music flows well. The final mix is better than their previous album “Climbin’ the Walls.” The bass is very jazzy sounding which is clearly heard on every song. There lot’s of great guitar riffs followed by some of the best leads. In my opinion, this album contains some of the best whiskey drenched vocals that Brad Divens has ever done. There’s not a whole lot of filler songs on here either which is nice. There is some nice melody to the sound. There’s a good bit of harmony in the chorus.  The musicianship is tight.  Highlights include “Spy”, “Draintime”, “Surrounded by Idiots”, and “Prego.”

Track listing:

“3-D Man” – 4:25
“Spy” – 4:42
“Gentleman Death” – 3:59
“Forever Alone” – 4:37
“Draintime” – 6:01
“Surrounded by Idiots” – 6:05
“Desert Grins” – 6:29
“What’s Your Pleasure?” – 4:10
“Prego (Instrumental)” – 2:58
“Another Nameless Face” – 4:31
“//” – 5:21
“I Ain’t Drunk, I’m Just Drinkin’ (Albert Collins cover) (Bonus track) ” – 4:15

 

Six-T-Six: Souls At Zero

Rating: 90%

souls-at-zero-six-t-six(ep)-20140324171259.jpgSix-t-Six EP was released in 1994 and features a good collection of tracks that kick ass. Bassist and lead vocalist Brad Divens, guitarists Jay Abbene and Terry Carter and drummer Shannon Larkin make up the personnel on this EP. I have always dug Souls At Zero even when they were known as Wrathchild America. They were a local band hailing from Alexandria, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland.

Six-t-Six is a good sounding album that is a bit different than some of their previous stuff. During the Wrathchild America days, the band was pretty much a solid Thrash Metal band. After changing their name they began incorporating Groove into there music, while at the same time, retaining that jazz influence. Good example that can be heard is the song called “Flies.” There seems to be a little of the Nu Metal influence that was added into their style.

Musically, the album sounds good. Production wise, it’s pretty good. Brad Divens vocal work and bass lines are great. Shannon Larkin’s drumming is heavy. The guitar work is pretty decent. “Hardline” is a great example of Shannon’s brilliant drumming. Lot’s off good fast tempos mixed with lots of what I call offbeats. Lots of good riffs and leads throughout the entire EP. Shannon Larkin’s vocal work on “Flies” and “When the Shit Hits the Fan” is an added bonus, although on “Flies” I am hearing Brad Divens’ vocals. Sadly, this was Shannon Larkin’s last work with the band as he moved on to Ugly Kid Joe and Godsmack.

Track listing:

1. “Don’t Ask”
2. “Underneath”
3. “Flies”
4. “Hardline” ((Demo ’92))
5. “I Against I (Bad Brains Cover)”
6. “When The Shit Hits The Fan”