ByzanthianThere isn’t much to do whilst living on an island in the middle of the English Channel (Guernsey) and luckily for our listening pleasure, Byzanthian Neckbeard have used this lack of activities to hole up in an abandoned bunker from World War II and create something which truly reflects the hopelessness one might experience whilst stranded in the fog and forgotten by time – filthy, crushing Doom. The four piece played a terrific set at this year’s Bloodstock Open Air on the New Blood stage and their debut album “From The Clutches Of Oblivion”. The band themselves say “Do not judge us for our backwards ways, but commend our spirit, hail the sordid church of Byzanthian and praise the beard of the diabolical”. Let us see if we are right to praise.

“Doppleganger” opens the album with a fuzzed out feedback like sound which leads into a delightfully sludgy feast of slow paced riffs and drums. The harsh vocals in combination with the Iron Monkey like approach creates such an evil presence and it’s hard not to nod along as it lumbers on at this slow and steady pace. The seriously fuzzed out sound teases but never quite kicks into gear but it works well, keeping the solid groove going. “Indoctrinate The Priestess” starts off with a haunting bassline which is then accompanied by an atonal lead line. The disharmony of the melody to the bassline creates an awkward feeling which then fades as the main riffs kick in, tying everything together before the atonal sounding lead comes back. Even though it follows the flow of the bass and riff, it just doesn’t seem to fit, but it works great. The harsh vocals and slow paced, bass heavy riffs in the verse are crushing and the chorus section speeds it up a little, adding some more intensity to the sound but the thunderous bassline still stands out. Round 4:20 into the song, it breaks to a clean section which has a very middle-eastern vibe to it. The tribal drumming, hypnotising guitar and chant-like vocals break up the intensity just enough for the main riff to come back in and hit you like a bulldozer before the song eventually fades out to a subtle but sustained wail of feedback, tribal drumming and fading guitars.

“Plant Of Doom” opens with a huge riff which has a very Sleep-like sound to it. The drums are really prominent in this track – the cymbals really add to the intensity and as the riff gives way to a more subtle sounding groove based one, the drums really drive it along. The chugging feel of the riff steadily drives the song on until a bass-break which ups the pace significantly into a frantic sounding section which really kicks the song alive before it comes back to the more subtle pace in the chorus before it begins a gradual and dramatic slowdown for the ending. “The Ganch” starts off with the bass again and as soon as the seriously fuzzed out guitars and harsh vocals kick in, it’s game on. The mammoth Iron Monkey like groove returns once again and it’s impossible not to feel crushed by it as it plods along. It’s a simple structured song, but it works so well. Halfway through, the song kicks up a gear into a really great headbanging feel riff-fest before it slows itself down and eventually fades out with a very subtle kick of feedback.

“Hive Mind Overlord” has a more rock-paced feel to it. The bass takes some of the lead duties in this one with very noticeable fills and it adds a nice twist to the sound on the album so far. The vocals are the same as the previous tracks, delivered in a harsh and powerful manner and the groove is just as big as ever, even at a faster pace than the rest of the album. Just after halfway through, the pace and feel changes. It slows down to a heavier, filthier pace and really brings the intensity up which closes the song brilliantly. “To Seek The Cyberdwarf” is the final track of the album. Opening much like the first track with some subtle feedback, a thick sounding guitar starts up with a very dark Black Sabbath vibe to it. The slow paced riff is built on by some teasing cymbal and percussion from the drums and as it goes on, you just expect something big is going to come. The big moment doesn’t quite come as the rest of the band joins in at the same pace and volume, just teasing even more than they already have been. Nearly three minutes into the track and a real groove filled riff kicks in for a while but it kicks back to the teasing Sabbath styled riff. The riffs trade places and the vocals finally kick in just after four minutes into the track. With the introduction of the vocals, the track gets a little more intense. The slow riffs get a more stomp-like feel to them but it just slips back into the teasing feel the start of the song had before it turns into a harsh sounding feedback filled outro which kicks back into the stomp-feel riff one more time for good measure and one last chance to really bang your head along to it.

Overall, this is a brilliant debut offering and it is worthy of high praise indeed. Hail Byzanthian and the diabolical beard which brings great doom!

(8/10 Fraggle)