Home > Music > Byzantine – …And They Shall Take Up Serpents (2005)

Byzantine – …And They Shall Take Up Serpents (2005)

Byzantine-AndTheyShallTakeUpSerpentsLooking at my personal archives, it seems I first attempted a review of this album in March 2010, back when this blog was in its infancy. I didn’t really get far, but I do agree with my past self that this is part of the wide collection of subgenres that is metalcore. Here, Byzantine combines speed/thrash tropes with some syncopated, proto “djent” style riffing ala Meshuggah, and a hint of progressive rock in their structures to make something that I particularly enjoyed upon listening to and still think holds up today.

One aspect of this album that I’ve come to notice over the years as my ears grew sharper and more attentive is its lyrical content. Much discussion of Byzantine emphasizes the band’s West Virginia roots, and perhaps a few claim exposure to the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian elements in the area shape the band’s choice of themes. Either way, there’s an emphasis on religion and politics, including a jab at Haliburton in “Ancestry of the Antichrist”. Not all of it’s this blatantly topical, but it does seem to reflect a sort of fire and brimstone worldview shaped by education and access to literature. The only album I can think of that does anything similar is “Open Fire” by Alabama Thunderpussy; its religion-inspired lyrics may have sprung from similar sources even though the genre is somewhat different. This album does use a variety of vocal techniques to showcase its lyrics; there seems to be a rough correspondence in which more personal stanzas are delivered in cleaner tones, but I’m not certain of this.

As a general rule, Byzantine focuses on a few specific aspects of their sound in each song. This isn’t to say there aren’t interjections – for instance, “Temporary Temples” starts speedy, has a break in the middle, and a melodic ending with emphasis on clean vocals and a guitar lead. Fortunately, the band has the songwriting chops to make these occasional shifts of sound fit without being too jarring. In the more aesthetically consistent songs, the focus is often more on the riffs – the guitarists provide a lot of variety in this regard. Since they’re not particularly long or complex, they derive much of their interest from their chord progressions and shapes. In the softer, gentler moments of this album, they occasionally take on a bit of an alt-rock feel.

Either way, this is fairly accessible for a metal album, or a metalcore album; what it’s labeled as is going to depend primarily on the listener. I’m not familiar enough with this album’s contemporaries to say how it compares to, for instance, an Ashes of the Wake or a The End of Heartache, but it does work for what it aspires to, and the mixing of formulas is pulled off effectively.

Highlights: “Taking Up Serpents”, “Jeremiad”, “Redneck War”

And as 2013 turns into 2014, so too does this blog turn into what it will be like in the aforementioned year. It should also be the year of Second Contact Is Worse if everything goes to plan.



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