REVIEW: SYLOSIS – “Cycle Of Suffering”
Let’s be honest, thrash metal is a bygone genre past its prime, we as a collective audience cannot release ourselves from the ardent love-hate relationship we have with the Big Four of Thrash, who are quickly fading away, taking the genre with them. Very few modern acts are able to keep the fires of the genre burning. In the list of modern thrash, only a few bands like Revocation, Trivium, and Reading’s Sylosis have their spots on lockdown.
In a world that is in a constant rat-race to down-tuned absurdity, Sylosis are the champions of Standard-E tuning greatness, instantly throwing us back to a simpler time, and increases the nostalgic factor of every one of their four previous stellar records. Their previous record was 2015’s Dormant Heart which released to favorable acclaim, yet Sylosis all but disappeared into obscurity, causing fans to raise a concern about the band’s continued existence. To deepen these fears, guitarist, frontman, and anchor, Josh Middleton joined the explosively successful melodic metalcore band, Architects. Rare are loud proclamations of a victorious return as an album as robust as Cycle Suffering, to dispel any doubt from old fans, and garner new listeners to boot!
The twelve-track record, clocking in at nearly sixty minutes is a juggernaut, yet has the density, focus, and precision of a much shorter record. There are no pretentious introductions, interludes, and outros to Cycle of Suffering, with opener Empty Prophets getting down to business in a matter of seconds. Follow up, and the first single I Sever opens with a folksy-acoustic arrangement before jetting off into the thrashy chug-fest we have come to know and love from the British quartet.
New to this record is a stronger emphasis on melodic arrangements and the subtle addition of keyboards (courtesy of mastermind Middleton) which adds depth to a genre that can easily stumble into sterility and staleness. Title track Cycle of Suffering has a slow-moving string section so far in the background that it’s easy to miss, yet adds weight to the track. Another more grandiose string section is the bridge and chorus of I Sever, again adding emotional heft, which when backed with strained vocals is extremely powerful. What makes Sylosis in general and Cycle of Suffering in particular, so enthralling, is the small flourishes that are like easter-eggs that elevate the tracks from being run-of-the-mill Metallica/Trivium-ripoff melodic thrash metal. The minimalistic doomy piano section on Invidia, the dissonance on Apex of Disdain, not to mention that lengthy techy solo, are a few examples of the goodies to be found on the record. The darkened acoustic intro and subsequent pull-off trills on Arms Like a Noose are such a novelty in an oversaturated genre. The breakdowns on Devils In Their Eyes, Disintegrate and others are crushing, and are probably the only times I wished Sylosis down-tuned or used extended-range guitars because those breakdowns increase exponentially in brutality!
Just when you thought that Sylosis has thrown every trick in the book at you on this record, album closer Abandon breathes fresh air with its morose ballad-esque tempo, with the strings taking the mainstage and clean vocals, which may be a first for Sylosis, yet done with the restraint and respect of a veteran band. The six-minute, Architects-influenced gut-wrencher is a perfect close to a perfect record. To run through and point out every single well-written section and flair would make this review exhaustingly long, and would even rob the listener of stumbling upon numerous goodies hiding on the hour-long runtime of Cycle of Suffering.
This record is a love-child of four proficient musicians playing their best as individuals and coming together to produce a single coherent piece of music, a feat rarely seen in modern music. As a frontman, rhythm/lead guitarist Josh Middleton is practically synonymous with Sylosis, for good reason. His approach to songwriting in terms of riffs, breakdowns, solos and all-round arrangements is among the best in the scene right now. It’s easy to forget that everyone on Sylosis has put out their best work in the Cycle of Suffering. Guitarist Alex Bailey is a wonderful counterweight to Middleton’s songwriting, Ali Richardson (also of Bleed from Within fame) is among the best drummers in the thrash/metalcore scene, and new bassist Conor Marshall provides a chunky low-end which is crucial to Standard-E tuned riffs that traditionally require a stronger-than-usual bass presence. The guitar tones, bass, drums, vocals, and synths/strings are mixed to industry-standard perfection. Whoever was in charge of production on Cycle of Suffering needs a raise and a pat on the back!
Cycle of Suffering is as close to flawless as it gets in modern times, and if there was ever any complaint, however minor, it would be that the record is just too darn dense! Listeners may get enmeshed in fatigue due to the relentless pummeling of high-velocity metal. There is a minuscule amount of fat on tracks like Idle Hands, Apex of Disdain, and Abandon that could have been trimmed to reduce fatigue, but there was a real struggle to find any real complaint on this record.
Sylosis may have backed themselves into a corner by creating their magnum opus with Cycle of Suffering. A near-perfect example of fusing old-school thrash influences with melodic sensibilities, with razor-sharp focused writing, and modern production. A hard one to top, lads!