An award for the most unexpected release of the year thus far goes to Reading’s Sylosis having retuned from what seemed at the time to be a very definite hiatus (that usually segues into full time retirement from said band) in 2016. But no, here they are with a brand-new album, tour, members, to grace our ears and eyes here in 2020. So, here’s the context behind the surprise and my own personal history with the band. Having sprung up in 2000, they were a breath of fresh air, peddling a relatively straightforward Bay Area influenced thrash metal sound, that didn’t pander to any hardcore or nu-metal sensibilities that were ubiquitous at the time and avoided breakdowns and down tuned shenanigans like the plague. That combined with a fearsome debut ‘Conclusion of an Age’ and the band were very quickly garnering favourable reviews and support slots with the great and good (and sometimes shite) including Devil Driver, The Black Dhalia Murder, In Flames, Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage and also including slots at Download coupled with lengthy tours of the US.
Everything seemed lined up to give the band a pathway to metal nirvana and having seen them live several times during the period between 2000 and 2016, I can attest that Sylosis were a hugely proficient live band (praise also for their always excellent merchandise/t-shirts) and their old school thrash with a soupcon of melodic death metal, always seemed to go down well. But following a serious road accident and various band members departures, they seemed to have stalled and inevitably went on long term hiatus when lead guitarist (and by now also lead vocalist) Josh Middleton was seconded into UK metallers (and by now arena headlining superstars given their pivot to radio friendly rock) Architects as a result of the tragic passing of their guitarist Tom Searle and also a close friend of Josh from cancer. Given that, it was no surprise that the band were packed away and put to the back of the proverbial cupboard never to be seen again. But back Sylosis are with a new album and a slightly new sound. Yes, the old thrash homages are there, correct and present, but there is a definite slower pace on offer here and whilst the heavy moments are still front and center, it certainly feels different, more in the vein of Gojira for want of a better comparison.
It feels as though the band have allowed the guitar gymnastics to take a back seat slightly and allowed the songs more space to breath, to chug and grind. By slowing things down a touch, this veers more into metalcore territory and deliberately seems to distance itself from the more melodic death metal efforts that had gone before. Not everything on here 100% works though, some of the songs on here seems a little ploddy, directionality almost like an outtake from Trivium’s last album. Boring would be a harsh word to use for some of the material on here, but I am struggling to find another word to describe it. That’s not to say that this album would’ve best been left on hiatus also, far from it, there are some decent songs on here including ‘Empty Prophets’, ‘Arms Like a Noose’ and ‘Apex of Disdain’ which almost has an old school Megadeth feel at times and features some great chugging guitars. Overall, it’s good to have these guys back with us, the UK scene can always do with more original, talented and heavy bands and for the majority of this comeback effort, Sylosis are back with a bang.
(7/10 Nick Griffiths)