"I think we have a knack for achieving a good balance of chaos and melody," explains Byzantine singer/guitarist Chris Ojeda. "The warthog chasing the butterfly."
Byzantine have translated their interest in religion in American society, the idea of extraterrestrial life, and Southern history/heritage into an unorthodox brand of heavy music. While these themes might bring to mind bands like Slayer, Meshuggah and Clutch, one should imagine a pure and wide-reaching amalgamation of these - and so many more bands - to understand what Byzantine have accomplished with The Fundamental Component.
The quartet's debut full length, The Fundamental Component is characterized by long songs, melodic thrash and Tony Rohrbough's scathing guitar solos while still embracing technical chaos and the violent groove of bassist Chris Adams and drummer Matt Wolfe. As such, the band have shared the stage with bands as diverse as Lamb Of God, Lacuna Coil, Shadows Fall and Nora, and joined a roster featuring similarly talented bands like Himsa, All That Remains, Cannae and Crematorium.
To be sure, growing up in West Virginia has helped Byzantine develop a unique sound. Without a dominating hometown scene dictating sound and style - no SoCal hardcore, no NYHC, etc. - Byzantine have been free to mold their fondness for bands like Testament and Meshuggah into a unique hybrid of melody, rhythm and aggression that is familiar and attractive without feeling regressive or clichÃ©d.
"We are quite alienated from any big scene," explains Ojeda. "Therefore, we tend to think for ourselves a lot more when writing material. We have just as much influence from Skynard and Chet Atkins around us as we do Slayer and Overkill. So we mostly just write what we know."
Despite all its forward-leaning tendencies, what Byzantine know has more that a small throwback to the heyday of thrash. In the grand tradition of Hetfield, Mustaine, Cavalera and Shuldiner, Ojeda plays guitar while singing - no small task. Need proof? When was the last time you saw a guitar-playing frontman in this generation of metal? It's truly a dying breed.
Ultimately, Byzantine aren't about this generation or that, progressive or retro, circle pits or floor punches, they're about making "solid albums and good heavy metal songs. Strong out of the gate and strong in the finish."