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Byzantine is back with new album, new attitude

WANT TO GO?

Byzantine CD release show

With Nation, DeadFaceDown and Among The Dead

WHEN: 10 p.m. Saturday (doors open at 8 p.m.)

WHERE: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington

COST: $12 advance, $15 day of show

INFO: www.vclublive.com or 304-781-0680

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- These days, Byzantine's story begins when it once seemingly ended: January 2008.

The Charleston metal band had just released "Oblivion Beckons" on L.A.-based Prosthetic Records, then broke up days later due to internal and external factors. After a few major-label releases and tours with huge metal bands in the United States and Europe, the band was done.

Fast forward to now.

Byzantine's new self-titled, fan-funded album and its singles, "Signal Path" and "Soul Eraser," are cracking Top 10 lists populated by major-label bands. The nine-song record, Byzantine's fourth studio effort reached No. 11 on the Sirius XM Liquid Metal Top 20 Most Played Albums, ahead of bands like Stone Sour and Down.

The response from fans, critics and fellow musicians to the new material has been overwhelming, said singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Ojeda.

"People are picking up on this stuff; it's crazy," he said. "I have a friend who plays in Five Finger Death Punch who just emailed me last night saying they have got to have the new album. All these bigger bands, everybody's hearing it, and I think they're hearing that chemistry that never left."

Byzantine will officially release the album Tuesday, preceded by shows at The V Club in Huntington on Saturday and 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown on Sunday.

The band is running things itself now. Albums and merchandise ship from Ojeda's basement. The musician, who also runs his own home improvement business, said the DIY method is a fun challenge that puts him in direct contact with Byzantine's fans.

"Every day, I get to see these orders coming in. I literally lick the stamps and see all the addresses -- from Charleston all the way to Colombia, Tunisia, Russia. Every part of the world is ordering stuff."

He's a bit awed by it.

"We don't even have a label, and these people are hearing about it and ordering it. I get to see every day how important this is to people, and it's worth the work to me."

Following the band's 2008 demise, it reunited briefly in 2010 with Split Nixon guitarist Brian Henderson taking over for lead guitarist Tony Rohrbough, who moved to North Carolina. A health scare prompted Rohrbough's return to West Virginia, which put Byzantine back in business, Ojeda said.

"It's weird that it takes something almost like a death to have a rebirth, you know? He did have to come back to West Virginia after his heart attack, and that's what brought us back together."

Such experiences found their way onto the new album.

"Almost every song on the album is very autobiographical," Ojeda said. "I'd say five songs out of the nine are about our lives, 'Signal Path' being one of the better ones because it deals directly with Tony's heart attack."

Now that Byzantine is back, it has something to prove, Ojeda said.

"I feel like there's a huge chip on our shoulder. We got to the door of the international landscape at one time, and we really weren't able to kick it open.

"We saw some other bands around us that I thought we were as good as that were able to kick it open and make a living out of it. And through some fault -- of our own and of other people -- we got shoved out of that group.

"We dropped the ball with 'Oblivion Beckons,'" he admitted frankly. "That album could've been the one that got us to that next level."

These days, Ojeda talks optimistically about the band he and Rohrbough started with a drum machine back in 2000.

"Now, we're back as a local band, and we really want to show all of these people we can write not only one good album, but we can write four or five in a row. I think this album is going to make us some waves and get us back on the landscape."

Although oblivion once beckoned, Byzantine is now resurrected. These days, the band is all about redemption and being at peace with what the future holds, Ojeda said.

"We've got a second chance, and most people don't even get a first chance," he said. "I feel blessed to have a second chance."

Reach Nick Harrah at wvrockscene@gmail.com.


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