Sylosis – Edge of the Earth

For those not in-the-know, Sylosis is a young, up-and-coming modern metal four-piece from Britain. I use the term “modern metal” because Sylosis’ sound is, for better or worse, somewhat amorphous to describe in a way that lends itself to clean categorization. Though main man Josh Middleton has been quoted as describing the band’s sound as having its roots in Bay Area thrash, it would be inaccurate to call Sylosis’ sonic approach purely thrash. There are certainly angular riffs flanked by vintage-inspired speed metal solos, but there is also a use of predominantly shouted/screamed vocals, down-tuned guitars, progressive feels and time signatures, the occasional clean chorus, and an emphasis on melody not far removed from the Gothenburg scene.

If this sounds great to you on paper, it sounded just as good in practice on the band’s solid 2008 EP, and downright outstanding on their phenomenal first full-length album from the same year in the form of Conclusion of an Age. So much so was I impressed by the well-crafted and interesting mélange of extreme metal styles  mixed with modern metal sensibilities that I had no doubt in my mind that the band could only get better for their sophomore release. Unfortunately, upon spinning up Edge of the Earth for the first time, I was left with the decidedly acrid taste of mediocrity in my mouth.

The most prominent change between albums is the switch from dedicated shouter Jamie Graham handling vocals to founding member and lead guitarist Josh Middleton pulling double-duty. While I’m all for converting to a quartet for reasons of live performance tightness and an added bonus of onstage image that recalls other great metal acts, as well as for the more practical reason of having less hands in the songwriting pot, it is only appropriate if it is not to a group’s detriment. Unfortunately, despite his impressive six-string chops, Middleton’s vocal approach is a one-dimensional, half-hardcore, pseudo-death metal shout that elicits other equally mediocre modern faux aggressive acts like Soilwork and The Haunted.

In a premeditated, though misguided attempt to sound less sterile and more like their live performances, the production on the record ends up only reducing the enjoyableness of the proceedings. Though more organic, the sound of the mix is one that is simultaneously inarticulate and lacking any dynamic range. The overall effect is one of a flat, bludgeoning experience that leaves the listener uninterested and aurally fatigued in spite of its less mechanical delivery. Tight, technical acts sound best when their instruments sound razor sharp and easily distinguishable in the stereo image.

As if to add insult to injury, the album clocks in, complete with two instrumentals, at just over seventy minutes. Though certainly technically competent, with brief hints of the greatness displayed on their previous album, the songwriting by Sylosis is lacking any kind of cleverness or memorable parts. The boxes are all checked for the style expectations set from their prior releases, but the creativity in execution ends up lacking.

I really wanted to like Edge of the Earth after Sylosis set the bar so high on their debut album, and could not have anticipated that a band with such potential would falter so early; typically that is reserved for at least the third or fourth album these days. The record does admittedly have some cool riffs and even some great melodic fret runs that are sure to sate those with less critical ears. Hell, I probably would have allowed myself to enjoy the record more had I not set up such lofty mental expectations, but no number of listens will proverbially cleanse me of the bitterness this album has left.


~ by Dux on March 28, 2011.

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