By Eric J. Baur
It would seem that England is not only the place where Metal was conceived, but also where it continues to flourish. Hailing from Reading, Berkshire, Sylosis have crafted a monolithic third studio album titled Monolith. If metal albums carried weight, Sylosis’ newest addition easily clocks in at ten tons on the proverbial “heavy” scale.
Darker and more ambient than Edge of the Earth, Sylosis bring forth a beast of an album with Monolith. The members successfully merge Melodic Death Metal with Thrash, while adding more depth this time around. Sylosis do a masterful job at showcasing their influences, while also carving a niche for themselves. Obvious Thrash influences include Metallica and Megadeth while the Death Metal element very much echoes Death, especially the lead guitar work.
Vocalist and lead guitarist Josh Middleton’s guitar work and vocals are top notch. Lyrically, Middleton wrote Monolith seemingly as a concept album which alludes to the tragic Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Vocally, Middleton’s screams come through with pure feeling, only adding to the heaviness of the album. It’s also refreshing to have a death metal vocal that’s discernible. Middleton’s clean vocals are surprisingly satisfying and tastefully placed. Rhythm guitarist Alex Bailey keeps the music tight right with bassist Carl Parnell and drummer Rob Callard. Sylosis definitely sport one of the tightest rhythm sections I have ever heard in Metal.
The opening track Out From Below successfully sets the tone for the rest of the album. The clean, ominous intro melts into distortion before the drums whip the song into action. Chugging rhythms reminiscent of Metallica’s …And Justice for All encapsulate the track and Middleton’s leads are skillful. The excellent solo intertwines with the rhythm guitar perfectly before melding into a slow section characteristic of many other songs on the album. The song finishes with a continued slow movement accented by ambient guitar leads and strong percussion work.
If any song from Monolith could be a single, it would be the second track, Fear the World. Another slow, clean intro begins the track before an ultra-fast Speed Metal riff tears through the speakers. Middleton demonstrates his lead guitar chops with expert guitar sweeps. Vocally, the mixture of screaming and clean singing in the middle adds an interesting aesthetic to the track. Another slow section placed before the second solo includes accents of bells tied in with Middleton’s screams bringing a measured breadth to the song. The track ends with the same clean guitar as the intro, bringing the song full circle.
What Dwells Within also starts with a clean intro that melds into distortion before continuing into a chugging verse riff. Again Middleton includes quick, skillful fills between verses showcasing his lead work. The track really digs in before a clean break with chugging riffs matched with crushing drums from Callard, displaying their amazingly tight rhythm section. The clean singing during the break feels refreshing yet temporary as the last word in each sung line is screamed, ripping you right back into heaviness. A slower solo is performed this time around bringing a nice diversity among the others in the album. Lyrically, the track has a foreboding and evil feel to it.
Behind the Sun gets heavy right from the beginning. Full of catchy riffs, this track remains far from filler. The chorus plays slower with an epic air that is trademark for Sylosis. Picking up in the pre-solo section, the song continues into a beautiful solo matched with ambient rhythm guitar. Middleton’s clean singing during the break before the second solo brings even more depth to the track.
The River is truly chilling. Beginning with an opening of clean guitar behind the sound of flowing water, the listener is lulled into a false sense of security before the distorted guitars kick in. This charging intro leads into a tremendously heavy verse riff. Lyrically, this song feels distinctly creepy, with Middleton screaming of a loved one haunting him from beyond. The tolling bell adds to the general unease. The pre-solo section sounds genuinely moving with the lines, “Take this misery, drown it with my memories, so they can never be found, follow the river down, to where the waves break.” The ensuing solo performed with true feeling moves into a beautiful dual guitar harmony before breaking loose. The last two lines are absolutely chilling with Middleton’s screams adding to the effect. The track’s outro proves supremely fitting to end the song with prominent drums and bass along with the returning sound of the river.
The title track is a behemoth. Beginning with an ominous, doomy intro harkening back to Black Sabbath, Sylosis really pull out all the stops. The intro riff continues into the verse as Middleton’s screams hit like a hammer. Between verses, a Megadeth-style riff turns the track from Doom to Thrash before breaking down into a satisfying chug. The clean break presents ominous and Doom-y tones with the accompanying drums before the distortion kicks back in. This song encapsulates the feel of the album and what Sylosis are trying to accomplish. Heavy, epic and substantive.
Paradox is perhaps the closest to being a filler. The instrumentation, however, keeps the song far from this category with elements of Speed Metal and complex rhythms that are more like leads. The clean break in the middle is refreshing before getting back into a tremolo picked groove that’ll make heads swing. The song ends with a grand outro section, slow and solid.
A Dying Vine is arguably the Thrashiest song on the album. It demonstrates both Sylosis’ dedication to their roots and their own vision and progression. Middleton adds more solos between verses, upping the blazing speed and complexity. The slower mid-section creates a nice break from the speed of the song’s first half. The solo plays slower as well, balancing the song. The clean, acoustic outro sounds pleasant to the ear, rounding out an excellent song.
All Is Not Well is a true headbanger all the way through. Here, the guitar riffs along with the bass and drums are simply devastating. This song showcases the band’s tight rhythm section. The crushing intro riff carries into the verse and keeps pounding away until a colourful and upbeat chorus changes the pace. If you don’t have whiplash from the song’s beginning, the galloping section after the chorus will do the job. This section sounds absolutely beautiful, providing galloping guitars with melodic leads behind. Middleton’s screams fit perfectly in the whole mix adding power and feeling. The pre-solo section proves catchy while the galloping rhythm returns behind the solo keeping the headbanging going. After the solo, the intro riff crashes back in, bringing the song full circle. All Is Not Well remains assuredly one of the heaviest tracks on the album.
Born Anew becomes another song that sounds as close to filler as could be possible for Sylosis, but to label it as such would seem unfair because the music is still too impressive. The intro just screams speed metal and does an excellent job kicking the song into gear. One of this song’s strengths lies in the demonstration of Middleton’s vocal range. The pre-solo section sounds artfully ambient with a fantastic solo. The song’s ending is 80’s thrash all the way.
The final track, Enshrined, proves to be an epic and fitting closer. The intro is superb to say the least. The drum work is prominent, adding massive depth and weight to the track. The solo is complex and engaging while also demonstrating Middleton’s skills. The clean section with acoustic guitar work and clean singing lulls you again into a false sense of security before distortion returns. Middleton spits out the lines, “Bring me to my knees, upon this tide of fire” adding credence to the idea that the lyrics are possibly personal for him. After an apparent outro, the track then goes silent for exactly ten minutes before coming back into a “hidden track” with a beautiful acoustic section. Here Middleton really demonstrates his clean singing ability, keeping it safe yet fitting his purposes. The song ends with the intro for Out From Below, effectively bringing Monolith full circle.