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Melodically Agressive - 81%

Triptychondrion, May 7th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, Nuclear Blast

Before all else, I want to address the elephant in the room: Sylosis sound like metalcore. Josh Middleton (the band's primary songwriter) can deny that as much as he wants to, but that doesn't change the fact that his music is filled to the brim with melodic triplets, dual guitar leads, breakdowns, and clean/harsh vocal switchups. I do not doubt that he dislikes metalcore as much as any functioning adult should, but that's what his end product sounds like. Whether he intended it to be this way or not is irrelevant.

With that cleared out, I can now move on with clear consciousness to the actual review. Sylosis were my gateway to the world of extreme metal. When I first started listening to metal, I abhorred all things that had blast beats and rough vocals in them as I considered people who liked and made this type of music to be knuckle draggers who cared for nothing but brutality, regardless of actual musical merit. However, after stumbling upon the hidden tack on "Enshrined" while going through YouTube, I was surprised to find that this hauntingly beautiful song was the work of a death metal band, and so I decided to check them out to see how that was possible. It took me just 30 seconds into "Out From Below" to get hooked. The melancholic clean intro, the way doomy riffs gave way to a breakneck thrash onslaught, the drum fills, the breakdowns, the face melting solos, and the grandiose outro, were like nothing I've ever heard before. Going into the rest of album, I was surprised to see that these guys did not burn all their talent in a single track, and that they were actually able to offer another 10 songs that did not drastically pale in comparison.

Now to be sure, Sylosis are not out there to reinvent the wheel. If you single out the individual parts that form the body of their musical vision, no one will fault you for saying that they're as generic as you could get. However, taken as a whole, the way these various parts come together might be slightly novel, even if not particularly groundbreaking. Middleton's growled vocals, progressive tendencies, and his apparent passion for doom metal help to make Sylosis feel heavier and more nuanced than your average melodic death metal band, and with subtle atmospheric keyboards and lyrics vaguely inspired by the Greek legends of Orpheus and Eurydice, the music ends up being a little smarter than you would expect it to be. The way he integrates all these aforementioned traits into his all out thrash (or metalcore, depending on how you look at it) attack is what helps set Sylosis above the average power metal band with harsh vocals. Middleton might have nothing new to offer his listeners, but he knows damn well how to do the old tropes, and he makes sure to do them as aggressively as possible.

As for highlights, the emotional solo on "Fear The World" is one of Middleton's best, and the Tool meets Pantera (you rolled your eyes I know) riffs on "What Dwells Within" are quite unique and refreshing. "The River" starts out with a breathtaking intro of celestial sounds that explodes into a flurry of some of the best riffs on this album, and the next track, "Monolith", has what I believe to be Middleton's most entertaining vocal performance ever, and is perhaps the closest the band's ever got to writing a black metal song. The intro on "A Dying Vine" is quite tasty, and the harmonized guitar leads around the 1:40 mark on "All Is Not Well" are a delight to hear. The last track, "Enshrined", is an unremarkable doom number that sadly feels lackluster, even if the acoustic hidden track toward its end retains it's special place for me as my gateway to the world of extreme metal.

With all that said, Sylosis suffers from some serious flaws. Almost all the songs on this album share exact same structure: Clean intro, loud as fuck doom riffs, melodic thrash riffs, harmonized guitar leads around the 1:40 - 1:50 minutes mark, breakdowns, a slow, post-metal mid section with booming drums and clean vocals, a solo, and then more doom riffs that fade out toward the end. Middleton's high quality song writing capabilities might alleviate some of these shortcomings, but his compositional patterns can get quite obnoxious once noticed, and his propensity for writing long albums doesn't quite help on that front either. On top of all that, the generic drums and flat guitar sound, coupled with the over-compressed production, are all sure to make you know that this is a Nuclear Blast album from ten miles away.

In short, there's nothing on Monolith -or Sylosis' entire discography for that matter- that you haven't heard before. The band's balls to the walls aggressiveness does them some help overcoming their shortcomings, and Middleton's guitar gymnastics are sure to delight guitar nerds. Monolith is darker its predecessor, Edge Of The Earth, and thrashier than its doom-ish successor, Dormant Heart, and in my opinion, the band's best work to date. In a perfect world, Sylosis would write 40 minutes albums, get rid of the breakdowns and the slow "thinking man metal" mid sections, and just stick to playing that no bullshit mixture of melodic doom and technical thrash that they do so well. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world, and it seems like we'll just have to be content with the Sylosis we have. These Brits are far from being original, but are just as far from being cliche, and if anything, can always be counted on to deliver some catchy riffs.