Sylosis are, by all accounts, a metal fan’s metal band. Even with a fanbase as ardent as theirs and the widest amount of exposure they’ve ever had from vocalist and guitarist Josh Middleton’s role in Architects, their status as a cult act has remained generally unchanged. That does seem about right though; a blend of thrash, melodeath and metalcore revered for its size and technicality isn’t the easiest sell to the wider public, which has really only furthered the ‘in-the-know’ nature of Sylosis’ music, and amplified it to a level of adoration that’s genuinely impressive. Even after a three-year hiatus, the love for Sylosis within the metal community still continues to burn bright, with new album Cycle Of Suffering finding its careering momentum coming from that dedicated audience when larger sources don’t even seem to be touching it.
But again, because the main appeal of Sylosis comes from how flagrantly outside of trends they are while still sounding sharp and contemporary, that’s not too much of a surprise, nor is it that Cycle Of Suffering sounds resoundingly like the sort of album this band would’ve made in their heyday. Rather than make a chartable progression, this is more of a doubling down of sorts, as Sylosis reclaim their spot among modern metal in the same way they always have. That in itself isn’t a bad approach, and for a metal album brimming with the thrills and technical wizardry, Cycle Of Suffering more than suffices, but it’s not the wider attention-grabber that honestly would’ve been nice to hear from Sylosis at this point, and it’s hard to call it more than a very good effort at this point.
It’s mainly down to the instrumental choices as a whole; the aggression and seething energy intrinsic to modern thrash and melodeath has remained untouched, but among that, it would also be nice to see Sylosis adopting something of their own to flesh things out just a bit more emphatically. They still feel constrained to some recognisable metal pastures that they could definitely afford to branch out from or build on at this stage, and as such, it can make a fair bit of Cycle Of Suffering feel as though it’s lacking in distinction greater than what Sylosis have previously built their brand on. It’s telling when the best moments are where Sylosis find themselves reaching outward from such a clearly-demarcated set of influences, ranging from simply extra passages of acoustic guitar on I Sever and Arms Like A Noose to allow those songs to breathe, to a frankly stellar incorporation of pianos and clean vocals to complement the more deliberate pace of Abandon for what is easily the album’s best song.
And if all that sounds like unfair criticism of Sylosis for sticking with what they know and continuing down the same paths they’ve already forged, it’s really not supposed to be. It’s still possible to acknowledge that more could be interwoven while appreciating what’s here, and when that’s a metal album that’s consistently indebted to the most powerful and incendiary elements of its source material, that’s still a win at the end of the day. Middleton’s guitar work remains the MVP here, capable of dishing out both the blistering solo work and the galloping snarl that makes the like of the title track and Shield so powerful and kinetic. Add in a similar stability that comes from a remaining instrumental faction with a genuinely impressive synergy (seriously, the tightness among each individual part is second to none here) and production that’s as unobtrusive as always in allowing the naturally bigger elements of an album like roar as much as they like, and Cycle Of Suffering is something of a greatest hits collection of 21st Century metal’s premier techniques. It’s certainly enough to give a suitably dour and occasionally pessimistic lyrical focus an added bit of oomph, and for the sort of metal that Sylosis are looking to ply, they’re arguably hitting one of the strongest approximations of it currently around.
That being said, a few more killer moments would’ve given Cycle Of Suffering the legs it doesn’t currently have in looking to cultivate an audience beyond the dedicated faithful, and the fact that Sylosis aren’t doing that when they clearly have the ability and platform to is kind of shame. But aside from that, this feels like a return that the fanbase will have no issue getting behind, with Sylosis doing what they do best and pulling it off with the tremendous skill that’s become emblematic of their output. Whether Cycle Of Suffering is going to be the bold, new chapter that’ll break down the modern metal doors remains to be seen, but even if that can seem rather doubtful at this point in time, Sylosis continue to make their mark, and for those who’ve been patiently waiting for this moment for years, that’s more than enough.
For fans of: Lamb Of God, Bleed From Within, Unearth
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Cycle Of Suffering’ by Sylosis is released on 7th February on Nuclear Blast Records.