Over the last three years, of all the bands to emerge from the pack of highly skilled, promising British metal bands, Sylosis have become one of the most championed. Their debut album, Conclusion of an Age, was one of the best debut metal albums in recent years, and they seamlessly built on this with their second album The Edge Of The Earth. The fact that in between the two they changed singers, with guitarist Josh Middleton taking on the vocal duties left empty by departed singer Jamie Graham did nothing to slow the bands’ rise to prominence. Generally, the only complaint against Sylosis has been that The Edge Of The Earth was too long for its own good. Now, eighteen months after the release of that album comes Monolith, the band’s third full length offering (and third album for their longtime label Nuclear Blast), and a chance to assess the band’s prospects of continuing their rise of the last couple of years.
Monolith almost seamlessly picks up from where The Edge Of The Earth left off, and despite not being that much shorter than the previous album, feels like a leaner and meaner animal. The statement of intent for the album is made right away on the opening track Out From Below, which launches into a ferocious riff after the dark and foreboding intro and never looks back. Fear The World sees some absolutely monstrous guitar work from Josh and Bailey, but with some rare (for Sylosis) slower elements and even a snippet of some clean vocals from Josh (which work very well within the context of the song). The River continues the riff assault with the always impressive Rob Callard thundering away behind the drums at times as if his life depends on it, while the rhythm section combination of Rob and bassist Carl Parnell are at the heart of the album’s impressive title track. “Monolith” is slower than a typical Sylosis song but sounds menacing and shows the band don’t have to thunder through songs at top speed to produce high quality metal.
For those who like their Sylosis to come with the dial turned to “face melting”, A Dying Vine should result in a lot of happy fans as it’s one of the fastest (at times) and most brutal (all the way through) songs the band has ever recorded. The album’s final track Enshrined is also guaranteed to give the senses a battering, though for those who have patience or access to a fast forward button, skip to the last four minutes of the song (after the main part of the song ends) for a hidden partially acoustic bonus track which has the feeling of first hearing the acoustic Slipknot tracks; You think it won’t work but it’s one of the most original and interesting parts of the album. Whether this is something they expand on in albums to come remains to be seen.
When it comes to things their fans expect from Sylosis, the level of technical musicianship is always very near the top of the list and Monolith is no different. All four members of the band are on top form with the precision at times almost approaching robotic levels. Josh also sounds like he has become more comfortable in his dual role of singer as well as guitarist which has led to Sylosis trying one or two new things, which work very well and add another dimension to some of the songs. The band are well known to be fans of bands such as Rush and Opeth, and there are tinges of that influence on show, particularly with some of the switches in vocal style which can be reminiscent of Mikel Akerfeldt in his pomp.
Some bands struggle with their musical identity in so much that when a song of theirs is heard, people can often wonder if its one of a dozen bands; Sylosis have never had this issue and Monolith has the trademark Sylosis tone and feel stamped all over it. This is the album of a band who are very comfortable with who they are musically but who are still trying to push boundaries wherever they can. If you like your metal heavy, fast and with an overwhelming abundance of riffs and solos, get Monolith and you will not be disappointed. This album should be another stop on Sylosis’s rise into the upper echelons of metal, certainly in the UK and hopefully further afield as well.