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Sylosis are the kind of modern band that, on paper, get a thrashaholic who has an appetite for the old-school fairly excited. With comparisons to Death, Cynic and Metallica, it's no wonder they're so hotly acclaimed. Naturally, there were some people who hurriedly checked the new blood out by Youtubing 20 seconds of one song the day before Sonisphere 2011 and the Big 4, the day they'd probably been waiting for for months. And the after the Big 4 had taken their necks, voices and probably their vodka for good measure (and not played 'Tornado of Souls'), Sylosis were probably the greatest band going after a night of things that are hazy to remember and 3 hours sleep when the sun came up. And they were duly impressive.
But that was then and this is now. The band does have a lot of things going for them. Actually, only one thing. They are talented on their respective instruments. I say instruments because the singer, Jamie Graham, literally attempts every vocal style going at the moment. There are bands out there who have mastered that style (Opeth comes to mind) and there are bands with two vocalists (Enslaved, I now love you) who are immensely enjoyable. But not Sylosis. The infrequent death growls are good, but the majority of the vocals are metalcore vocals (I had to check out some really shit bands to classify those vocals). I don't actually mind that style, because metalcore is ruined because of the poor musicians and obnoxious vocalists. Hang on... But no. It is the ill thought-out, ill-placed whiny, yes whiny, clean vocals that pop up for no reason, annoy me, and then disappear. But like the Terminator and Jehovah's Witnesses, they are always back.
The bass does exist on the album. I am unable to relay what it purpose it serves, all I know is there is a bassist in the band and in the music. I can kinda feel it, but fuck knows what it's doing. Probably following the guitars.
The aggressive thrash riffs are exciting, up-tempo and get me moving, but unmemorable and indistinguishable from one to the next. If I am forced to compare them, I would call it a more technical Metallica, because they are gallops in the vein of 'Battery'. I am aware that thrash does have recycled riffs and rehashed guitar ideas, but they are played with charisma. These are not. However, the melodies lift the album up, because they saturate every song. The melodies are unstoppable and are the catalyst of comparisons to all those bands you love. They're not particularly memorable either, but they add variation to the music... until you've heard them in every song and you wish for some new ideas. Acoustic guitar also serve as intros and outros on several songs, and all of them seem to have taken the idea of 'Battery' and killed it. There are also some metalcore chugs which slow the music right down, and depending on your stance to the genre may cause to despise the band. The album also features a lot of shreddy solos from Josh Middleton, who knows what he's doing but needs to focus on some catchy solo work. They are fast, but not comparable to virtuoso work or Dave Mustaine (who always gets his own space).
The drums range from rapid double-bass, to following the gallop-y guitars. There is also some slower drum work to complement the occasional chord strikes. The drum is also allowed a few fills of its own, which aren't anything special, but they break the music up for variation.
I dislike pseudo-deep lyrics that attempt to have an intellectual meaning but are hollow and boring. The title track has a nifty vocal hook, but that's about it.
Now, I have bashed the band quite a bit. Is it because my cherished memories of seeing them on my birthday at Sonisphere do not reflect the listening experience I had when I bought this album? Yes, that's exactly it. Sylosis are labelled as progressive, but I call it incoherent (or bad progressive). Every song literally slams every element of guitar work that I mentioned together, added some meaningless lyrics and tah-dah. Thrash riff, noodly melody, solo and an acoustic outro. They'd be better off skimming the fat and focusing on bringing certain aspects to life more rather than mushing it all together. Being my first less than positive review, you may wonder why this album is not less than 50%. It's simple. The band can play together. They are able to pull it off live and they know what the fuck they're doing instrumentally. And it's a debut album. It may be the hype that ruins or maybe the undeveloped songwriting.
On reflection, it's both. Better luck next time, lads.
Thanks to the regular updates and newsletters that I get from Nuclear Blast Records, I was pretty click to catch onto hearing about Sylosis. This quintet from the UK was touted as "epic and progressive thrash metal", something that immediately caught my attention and made me think of bands like the 1980s tech power/thrash quintet Realm for some reason. Even though when I listened it wasn't anything like Realm or even that technical, hearing the title track off of this album before it came out made me really want to listen to the album. Skip ahead a bit of time, and I ended up coming across the album for the price of about five bucks in a used CD bargain bin at a local record store. I hadn't thought much about the band in the days before but I felt like buying it since it could give a "buy two get one free" deal at the store. So I picked it up, popped it in my car, and expected get blown away.
Rather then that, I didn't really get blown away. Admittedly, Sylosis's Conclusion of an Age is a real let down for the most part. Conclusion of an Age is not "epic and progressive thrash metal", it's really minorly progressive thrash core. That's right, this is thrash core, not thrash metal, not groove metal, and not melodic death metal at all. I don't know who came up with the idea that this band was melodic death metal. But getting back to the point, Conclusion of an Age simply shows another modern band at a bit of a more technical and progressive level then most of their peers and nothing new, epic, or that progressive for that matter.
First off, to start the problem I really have with this album is on a lot of the tracks I feel like I'm listening to two different songs combining then separating again and again. This is a feeling I get right from the beginning, probably the most so on the first real song of the album After Lifeless Years. You get that later on at various moments throughout the album and it really annoys me. I know Sylosis has a huge desire to keep things progressive and fresh sounding, but most of the time it sounds just unnecessary. If you want to play a clean song that's mostly melodic with epic emo crooning, do it. If you want to go balls out at full speed, just do it. Don't try and intersect the two lines randomly in odd zig zagging patterns that just annoy the living daylights out of me.
A lot of that also above problem is arguably helped along by vocalist Jamie Graham. Jamie sounds like pretty like much a lot of other modern metal vocalists, trying to do every possible vocal style at the same time and not able to really do one of them good very well. He switches between a very hoarse shouts that sound sort of like a deeper version of Phil Anselmo, rasping that one could potentially say is black metal-ish, death metal grunting, and clean vocals. Unfortunately the guy just cannot do any of them in a really amazing way. Admittedly he doesn't do any of them really terribly, he just cannot do all of them at once. Arguably he gives his best vocal performance when he does his shouting and the black metal vocals, but the clean vocals for the most part are just obnoxious. The songs where he leaves them out (such as Blackest Skyline, the title track, and Teras) are arguably where he gives his best performance, and he's at his catchiest. Many of his attempted hooks are just not as catchy because he switches between vocal styles too fast and poorly without a real need to do such. The only real songs where the clean vocals sound good are Transcendence and Swallow The World. The rest of the time though they are just unnecessary.
For such a "progressive" band, Sylosis also repeat themselves a hell of the lot of the time. A lot of the time the band uses a ton of the same chord shapes in the guitars. Guitarists Josh and Alex are often really playing the same riffs and rhythm patterns on guitar with just a different drum beat to make them sound a bit different. This annoys the living daylights out of me, because the band often to a lot of this really kind of slow paced, non staccato version of Master of Puppet's era Metallica style riffing that just really annoys the crap out of me after awhile. Every now and then they throw in a harmony or some trem picked part like the lead break in Blackest Skyline or the harmony in Transcendence helps to try and break up some of the monotony but then I realize that this is the way a million other bands really break up the same monotony as well. Some of the riffs even seemed to be ripped right from Metallica. Anyone who's listened to Teras, please tell me that the riff doesn't like that of the main riff in Battery? Swallow the World opens up on a note that sounds a lot like a Metallica ballad, sort of like a mix of Fade to Black and One. Please guys, we don't need another Metallica knock off here, we can find that somewhere (coughTriviumcough).
What I will give Sylosis is that these guys are tight and clearly know how to play better then some of their more well known contemporaries. The songwriting skills of Josh Middleton, while disconjointed and repetitive at times can at other times make a sound that is really heavy and absolutely pummeling. Nowhere is this more prevalent then on the title track, where I think that band arguably shines their brightest. Not only that, but Josh can actually shred and his solos have a much more old school vibe then many of his contemporaries. He's about on the skill level of Gary Holt if one were to put it into that kind of a perspective. His solos aren't very well phrased either, and his guitar tone often doesn't stand out enough to make you really say "damn this guy can play!" like some of the other guys who play music just like Sylosis does. Alex complements him with good rhythms and harmonization work that I think does just fine. Drummer Rob Callard is blazing fast with the double bass and makes a lot of good beats here and there, even though if it is a lot of stuff that I have heard before. He keeps the time well and does what every drummer should do at a good pace and keeps things heavy and fresh at times. Carl Parnell's bass is completely unnoticeable and almost impossible to hear, though you know it's there.
Production of the album is mostly that of the modern variety, guitars that really saturate the sound with their song and bass that is completely covered up by the guitars. The vocals are all neat and clean and the drums sound modern. There are clicky bass drums galore and plastic sounding everything else, and this gets to me quite a bit. I mean the band could not have gone out of their way to get a more old school mix like many of their "influences" claim to have gotten? It's not that hard to mix your album old school sounding these days guys, just find the person to do it or do it yourselves! Seriously this kind of album mixing is really getting annoying, and I want something a bit less clean and a bit more rough around the edges for a change for once.
All in all, Sylosis have good potential but a lot of work to do. This British thrashcore quintet need to work on making their progressions better or simply playing more straightfoward stuff, dropping all the different vocal styles and focusing in on one. However with the glimmers of hope in songs like Blackest Skyline, the title track, and Swallow the World, I think Sylosis can really show themselves to be more then just another modern metal band and can show that they really know how to play. Despite the title track, this album is not the Conclusion of an Age by any means at all.
When I first checked this band out on their myspace and heard the songs “Conclusion of an Age” and “Teras” I almost pissed my pants. I thought I had finally found a modern thrash band that wasn’t just a metalcore wannabe-thrash band and wasn’t a band that just ripped off of Slayer. I loved everything about those two songs. I looked around their page and they labeled themselves as “epic thrash metal” which I agreed with at the time. They said that they had a hint of melody in their sound as well which I was a little iffy about but I chose to ignore it.
When I got the album, the track “Desolate Seas” really started out great. It had a gallopy, percussive opening riff that actually had a unique rhythm to it and wasn’t just a sequence of triplets like a lot of other bands would have done. As the song progressed I thought “This is gonna be a great album,” but as soon as I thought that, it happened: there was a wishy-washy melodic break with emo clean vocals. I thought that it was just the first of few but it happened more and more. The entire layout of the album was that same formula: heavy, soft, soft, heavy, heavy, soft, etc. The only real sanctuary came with “Conclusion of an Age” but at that point I was just too mad to listen on any further. I never touched it again for a while, I was pissed at the fact that I had found yet another metalcore band that pretended to be thrash. I eventually ate those words later.
Something then convinced me to listen to it again and I had seen everything in a different light. The melodic parts (as gay as they were) did actually have good musicianship backing them and the lead guitar parts were outstanding. The parts that were heavy were also good and original and were indeed “thrashy.” The melodic parts also gave each song some texture and made it sound like the band knew what they were doing. There were several times when the melody was epic sounding, like in “Swallow the World,” and there were times when it was flat out gay, “Transcendence.” The melodic parts established the band on more of the melodic death metal than metalcore genre because they are too original and technical for any metalcore band and the lack of breakdowns also proves this. I personally think that this band fits more in the thrash/ melodic death metal genre than just the melodic death genre.
In conclusion it really isn’t a bad album. They all know how to play their instruments but the lead guitarist is defiantly the more musically acute person out of all of them. The production is pretty good, everything is loud and clear but there are several moments when the bass absolutely blasts out everything and cuts out even the best speakers at just medium volume. This is a great album for a debut album don’t get me wrong, my only hopes for the future is for them to tone down the melodic parts (not to get rid of them entirely) and to get rid of the emo clean vocals. If you absolutely hate anything that has to do with modern metal and just cringe at even the mention of melody then stay as far away from this album as you can. But if you are willing to give modern metal a chance and hear something a little original for once than you should check this album out.