Exclusive: Byzantine Tackles Prescription Drug Addiction in 'The Agonies' Video
West Virginia prog thrashers Byzantine are rolling out the second single from their new album, To Release Is to Resolve (April 7/CEN/Red Distribution), and Billboard has the exclusive premiere of its official video.
The high-definition, black-and-white clip of "The Agonies" has an in-your-face focus on vocalist/guitarist Chris "OJ" Ojeda, drummer Matt Wolfe, guitarist Brian Henderson and bassist Sean Sydnor. Byzantine took this approach as a tip of the hat to a particular legendary thrash band.
"We shot the video for this song in a local warehouse in our home base of Charleston, W.V.," says Ojeda. "It was about 55 degrees outside, but inside was hovering around 40. Needless to say, this video was as metal as it gets. We chose for the video to be performance-only and shot in black and white to catch the stark feel of the Overkill 'Elimination' video from our youth."
Byzantine addressed the brutal price of heroin dependency on dogged track "Soul Eraser," from its 2013 self-titled album. The accompanying music video of scratchy, warped images painted the grim picture of addicts wasting away in an industrial town. Now, on "The Agonies," the band shouts a warning cry about the misery of kicking prescription pills. Watch the video below:
"The song title 'The Agonies' is a street term for the severe withdrawal symptoms from prescription pain pill abuse. This subject is extremely personal for me, as this problem has infiltrated many good lives of people I know and grew up with," says Ojeda. "It's an epidemic, plain and simple. It has taken my home state, which has always been known for being blue-collar, hardworking, tough as nails, and turned it into a pre-apocalyptic scene of the unemployed, the depressed and the hopeless. My own hometown was once a place that we could leave our windows open on hot summer nights with no fear. Now my parents don't feel safe in their home, just like most senior citizens. If you fit the demographic for having pain medication in your home, chances are pretty good that you also fit the demographic for being slain in your home by the same kids you watched play in your yard 15 years ago."
Ojeda states that a close friend of his left rehab just days ago after being treated for addiction to Suboxone -- a drug that, ironically, is prescribed to treat drug addicts. "We are all mentally drained from watching him suffer for almost two years, but I have hope that he's on the path to recovery. I had a one-on-one intervention with him a few weeks ago, and it was all I had in me to not break down and cry. To watch a close friend go through this has been hard, but we have a very close-knit group of friends here who are driven to see him succeed and get back to normal. But just like all bad things, this too shall pass..."
Asked if he blames the healthcare system at all for the problem of addiction, Ojeda says he puts "a tremendous amount of fault" at its door. "I personally know what you would call 'pill mill doctors' in my area," he explains. "These are board-certified physicians and/or pharmacists that took an oath to help people, and yet they pump out opiates like a Pez dispenser for anyone that has cash, regardless of medical history or lack thereof. And the pharm industry is churning out opiates at a record rate, all while lining the pockets of our state political leaders to ensure laws don't restrict them via lobbyists. Who suffers? We all do. Insurance, taxes, unemployment, drug arrests all go up. The percentage of crimes in West Virginia that are home invasions are at an all-time high specifically because of the painkiller epidemic."