Winning the cointoss today and starting the metal mayhem is Byzantine's eponymous (fourth) album, and it's one of the feel-good hits of the year. There's something about their unabashed nostalgia for 90s metal, pushed through the filter of modern production, their Kings-X-meets-Lamb-Of-God ethic that makes me happy without fail. Rather than falling into the trap of dumb copying that tripped up more than one band in 2013, Byzantine's latest album comes across as more of an affectionate pastiche, a loving census of multiple subgenres and sounds. Byzantine may not be very heavy, but there's such an abundance of metal thoughout the album that you may not notice.
Unless, of course, you follow it up with Gorguts's Colored Sands. This album is ridiculously heavy. And technical. And demented. It has no love for anything other than its own infernal and inscrutable logic. It's not the most slickly produced document, but one immediately gets the sense that the muddy bass-heavy cacophony is exactly what the band wanted to get across. Even the track that (on paper) should be the most benign interlude, The Battle Of Chamdo, is aggressive and malicious. Also, it leads right into 7 minutes of donkey punches. Gorguts doesn't merely beat Byzantine... they bludgeon them into oblivion.
Brutal work, Gorguts! Let's see how they do in three weeks when they go up against Misery Signals. In the meantime, tomorrow we listen as Soilwork and Intronaut duke it out.