…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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Eric the Red: Týr

Rating: 90%

Eric_the_red_re-release_cover.jpgReleased in 2003 and released in 2006, “Eric the Red” is a unique take on European traditional folk songs and tales. Musically, this album is a combination of Folk and Viking Metal with some Progressive influences. It also has some of the Power and Epic Metal elements that are blended nicely into Týr’s brand of Heavy Metal. One thing is for sure, Týr will leave you wanting to know more about the traditional themes that are the subject of their lyrics.

The song structures are very complex, loosing more of the power chord and going for more of riffs that are almost along the lines of scales. Think Iron Maiden. The music itself isn’t as heavy as most Viking Metal bands are as many of them fall into the Death Metal realm, but along the lines of traditional Heavy Metal.  Again, think of early Iron Maiden or Manowar. This album is rich on harmony and melody from the music to the vocals. It also seems to have some melodic melodies to it as well.

Vocally, there are chants and songs written in poetic manor that tells story of those yesterdays. The arrangements of lyrics are both inspiring and epic along with those melodic and majestic chorus lines. The chorus really makes you want to sing out loud and you’ll hear inside you mind because of how catchy they are. It’ll turn you into a Pagan or Heathen when your done.

Vocalist and guitarist Heri Joensen delivers a great performance on this record. I really admire his vocal style and song writing capabilities. Also shredding on the ax is Terji Skibenæs. Keeping pace and time is bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen and drummer Kári Streymoy whom I must say really give this brand of Viking Metal that tasteful Progressive complex of off beats. 

 

Track listing:

1. “The Edge” 7:44
2. “Regin Smiður” Traditional Faroese 6:08
3. “Dreams” 5:32
4. “The Wild Rover” Traditional Irish 4:12
5. “Stýrisvølurin” Traditional Faroese 6:57
6. “Ólavur Riddararós” Traditional Faroese 4:36
7. “Rainbow Warrior”  5:28
8. “Ramund Hin Unge” Traditional Danish 4:31
9. “Alive” 7:24
10. “Eric the Red” 7:42
11. “God of War” 6:23
12. “Hail to the Hammer” 3:49

Winter: Oceans of Slumber

Rating: 90%

Oceans-of-Slumber-Winter-500x500.jpgMy friend gave me a copy of this album called “Winter” by Oceans of Slumber. Upon my first listen, I was actually blown away. Their style of Progressive Metal is really good. This album was released in 2016 and marks their first official release, even though, they have two previous works.

Musically, this album has a lot to offer. There are a lot of great riffs and leads. The vocals are amazing. The song structures are really good and the album itself has a nice flow to it from start to finish.  “Nights in White Satin” originally by the Moody Blues, I find was well done and a nod to the Progressive Rock sound of the earlier days. With the Progressive influences, this isn’t your ordinary Progressive Metal album. I find it refreshing. There is a great del of atmospheric and melodic elements that adds to the richness of the music and overall sound. “Lullaby” is a nice small mellow and vocal piece that leads into a acoustical piece “Laid to Rest.”

Oceans-of-Slumber-band-2016

New Noise Magazine

 

Track listing:
Winter 7:58
Devout 5:08
Nights In White Satin 5:45
Lullaby 1:46
Laid To Rest 1:41
Suffer The Last Bridge 5:01
Good Life 2:08
Sunlight 5:34
Turpentine 5:32
Apologue 6:55
How Tall The Trees 1:33
… This Road 7:44
Grace 3:21

White Music: Crack The Sky

Rating: 85%

White_Music_(Crack_the_Sky_album_-_cover_art).jpg“White Music” by Crack the Sky was released in 1980. I had this album on record, tape, and even CD. Over the years, I seemed to loose all copies of this record. Then, my wife looking through a small box of records at the antique store found this treasure on vinyl for $3.50. What a steal!!! Although, many didn’t seem to like the Maryland’s own Prog Rock group, or this record, I did find it refreshing or better yet, something to listen to while recovering from a hangover. Following their disbanding, John Palumbo, Rick Witkowski, and Vince DePaul reformed the group and recorded this record.

I have always admired the weirdness of Crack The Sky’s musical style and the whiny and higher pitched vocal work. “White Music” delivers that in a big way. With the 1980’s music was turned all around. It was the end of the Disco era and becoming more of a Techno era with all kinds of newer styles of music coming on. Rock n’ Roll and Country seemed to embrace some this new era of music as well. Crack The Sky too embraced these new styles. Therefore, this record may not have pleased many of their earlier fans.

“White Music” and the song structures are very impressive. They managed to keep most of the Prog Rock influences while mixing other elements into their musical style. Side one begins with a decent guitar groove on “PopTown.” The vocal style is based around Pop music. Think Talking Heads. “Living With the Lights On” has a great groove and some weird sound effects that SCREAMS Art Rock. This song has plenty of experimentation with the keyboards that produces that weirdness. “Skin Deep” is a very funky tune and the added horn section gives it a very jazzy feel. Side one ends with “White Music” that has a very eerie guitar riff that has some Punk influence to it.

Side two begins the weird vocal and instrumentation song “All American Boy.” “Hot Razors in My Heart” is structured after a normal Rock song from the vocal arrangement to the instrumentation. That song is still played on the Baltimore airwaves to this day and is one of the band’s most popular songs. While, “Techni Generation” employs a more modern sound that was beginning during the late 70’s and 1980. “Flying” has a vocal style that is more fitted to the 1960’s and 1970’s Folk where all members of the group harmonize their vocals, like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.”Songs of Soviet Sons” has a good groove that is surrounded by a String arrangements.

The song structures are well written. It’s got Prog, it’s got Rock, it’s got Pop, and it’s got lot’s of experimentation. The melodies are fantastic with regards to the music. It’s got some excellent guitar solos. The instrumentation is very good. I love Heavy Metal music, but the guitar on this record is brilliant. It’s not heavy or distorted. It’s got a great sound. The bass is very funky. This album also has some great drumming on it as well. This record sets up Crack The Sky as they move into a new decade. My favorite songs on this record are “White Music” and “Hot Razors in My Heart.”

Track listing:

1. “Poptown” 3:47
2. “Living With the Lights On” 2:56
3. “The Radio Cries (It’s Singles Time)” 3:11
4. “Skin Deep” 4:08
5. “White Music” 4:12
6. “All American Boy” 3:18
7. “Hot Razors in My Heart” 4:38
8. “Suspicion” 4:50
9. “Techni Generation” 4:05
10. “Flying” 1:21
11. “Songs of Soviet Sons” 5:05