Maarten : “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!” Thus concludes the short bio of sludgy doomsters Byzanthian Neckbeard. Dragged into existence in January 2013, on the island Guernsey, the band has been playing a number of shows, including an appearance on the Bloodstock Festival. The time was deemed right to record a debut album and this resulted in ‘From The Clutches Of Oblivion’.
The album consists of six sludgy doom songs in the vein of Iron Monkey, Slomatics, Conan and Bolt Thrower. Or, more to the point, aspiring to emulate that style: raw, blunt, simplistic. Pounding drums, hammering riffs and rugged, scruffy vocals with a death metal vibe. The enthusiasm is there, the will to succeed probably too. But in a genre where originality is almost a scarce commodity, it is, at the least, essential to come up with real quality ideas that can be translated into genuine good, catchy song writing. It may be doom, but it’s still about hooks and licks. It is just not satisfying to slavishly repeat mediocre riffs that have been worn out by an infinite number of bands over the last twenty years.
And on top of that, what is needed is furious passion, the irresistible urge to destroy everything with an energy and aggressiveness second to none. That’s what sludgy doom is about. Veni, vidi, vici. Give no quarter. “Pounding the world like a battering ram”, as Rob Halford put it some 35 years ago. Alas, none of it is there in spades. The urgency is absent.
Byzanthian Neckbeard’s intentions are undoubtedly good, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. This debut album will not save these Guernsey boys from the clutches of oblivion, nor will it earn much praise. Except maybe for sporting a nice Byzantine beard: curly and pointy, split in the middle. Just like the score.