Like a lot of people in the UK metal community, I have been awaiting Sylosis’s follow up to their debut album Conclusion of an Age with considerable anticipation. When Conclusion of an Age hit our ears in late 2008, it made an immediate impact and as more and more people have discovered Sylosis in the 2 and a half years since, their profile has grown and grown along with the expectation for this album. The bar was already set high; Conclusion is one of the finest debut albums by a metal band (from anywhere, never mind the UK) in the last 10 years.
So, when I finally got my hands on a preview copy of Edge of the Earth courtesy of the band’s excellent record label Nuclear Blast, I was about to find out if The Edge Of The Earth would live up to expectations. Could Sylosis do it again without ex-vocalist Jamie Graham and with guitarist and founder Josh Middleton handling mic duties. Did they do it again? Read on…
After a single listen, several things are evident. The first is that Sylosis are not a band who have followed the well trodden path of giving their sophomore album s more “commercial” sound in the hope of attracting more fans and record sales. If anything, The Edge Of The Earth takes the opposite path to Conclusion of an Age. There are less immediately noticable “singalong” (or growl-along) moments to pick out, and the overall undercurrent of the music feels darker than its predecessor.
The second immediately noticable characteristic is that Jamie’s vocals are not missed one bit. Josh’s vocals carry a harsher edge to them and a surprisingly fierce amount of power spits out the lyrics throughout the album. Josh also displays a considerable range, bellowing one moment, screeching the next and handling the odd clean melody very well indeed. Anyone who has seen Sylosis live recently will attest to his considerable ability to do all of these things whilst widdling crazily on his guitar, making him one of the most talented and versatile frontmen going anywhere at the moment.
Another noticable attribute to the album (which only becomes clearer with several repeat listens) is that the level of songwriting from the band has stepped up considerably. That is not a knock on Conclusion of an Age, which contains several blistering songs, but it is clear that Josh, Rob, Alex and Carl set out to outdo themselves by a sizable margin. Some of the guitar work from Josh and fellow axeman Alex Bailey, both in terms of complex riffs and horn raising solos verges from the sublime to the truly rediculous. The rhythm section is not to be outdone as Carl’s extremely solid bass work underpins some quite magnificent drumming from Rob Callard. Anyone who has heard or seen the band would know they are clearly a talented group of musicians, The Edge Of The Earth is a fantastic showcase for what they can do when they really push themselves.
As for the individual songs themselves, there are several standout tracks. Sands of Time and Altered States of Consciousness have both been part of the bands live set for several months now and it is very easy to see why as they contain all the right ingredients to be considered modern thrash classics for many years to come. Altered States contains at least three distinctive fantastic riffs while Sands of Time grabs you instantly with its marching style drum intro before grabbing you by the nether regions and launching a full blown metal assault on the listeners senses. These are definitely not the only highlights though; Lead single Empyreal will be a staple of the bands live set for a good while to come while A Serpent’s Tongue (bassist Carl Parnell’s favourite track) is an example of when metal music at its most brutal can be a thing of sheer audible beauty. Other standout tracks include album opener Procession which gets things off to a pounding start and Kingdom of Solitude which features some of the most punishing guitar work on the album. My personal favourite is the seven and a half minute mini epic Apparitions, which showcases just about everything good about Sylosis with all the points I have already mentioned in spades.
I expect most readers are saying by now, “where is the BUT?”, or “an album this good must have some downside?”. There is only one “BUT” when it comes to this album, and it is not a huge point, and will be a bigger issue for some than others. At nearly 78 minutes long, The Edge Of The Earth is one of the longest metal albums of recent times and has got to be the longest album I can think of in recent times not released by a progressive rock or metal band such as Dream Theater or Transatlantic where the song lengths regularly get into 10 minute plus territory. As far as I am concerned, there are no “bad” songs on the album but it just feels a tad on the long side, you get the feeling that Sylosis would have been better off saving two or three of the tracks for album number three. As far as I am concerned the band have more than made sure that their fans will get more than their money’s worth, but I can see the point when some people say they start to lose concentration or focus towards the end of it. But I stress, this is only a minor point of contention.
Ever since Conclusion of an Age was released, Sylosis have been touted by fans and press alike as “one of the next big things” from the British metal scene. With The Edge Of The Earth, no-one should be talking about them being a “next or future” anything, their time has arrived now. They have made a fantastic album, and should rightfully take their place at the top of the tree of British metal bands. One of the albums of the year, and possibly the best album by a British metal band for a very long time indeed.
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 11th March 2011
For Fans Of: Dark Tranquility, In Flames, Insomnium, Trivium, 21st Century Modern Thrash