One thing I've noticed over the years of judging these competitions is this: sometimes, the coin toss works in your favor. Today is not one of those times.
Byzantine get our battle started with The Cicada Tree. In the past, this band has stood out for their peculiar (and if I'm being honest, not altogether cohesive) polyglot sound. This time around, there's been a noticeable mellowing of their disjointed approach, offering up a more cogent kind of proto-djent rethrashy groove metal. The musicianship and songwriting are crisp and focused, with OJ Ojeda's self-assured singing acting as an anchor throughout the album. It's winsome when it works; otherwise, there's something decidedly 90s-ish about it. There are more misses than hits the longer the album goes on, and by the time you get to the last two songs (covers of The Cars and Fishbone), the case against The Cicada Tree is plain.
Riviẽre's debut album Heal is a different beast altogether. Atmospheric, languorous, and above all patient, this music happily fills the alien experimental void left by Byzantine's newly reductive polish. The result is a surprising and fresh listen, reminiscent at times of Karnivool, Skyharbor, Tool, and Norma Jean, and yet sounding nothing like any of those other artists. The album's greatest strengths are its deft composition and steadfast pace. Its weakness lies with bassist Arnaud Laffont's vocals, which are occasionally pitchy... but that's not much of a distraction from an otherwise hypnotic affair. By the end of Heal, the Byzantine is all but forgotten. Congrats to Riviẽre! We'll check them out again at the end of the month, in what is sure to be a unique battle with Fleshkiller.
That's it for our second week! We continue to savagery on Monday, with Dyscarnate and Hark.