Sylosis – A Not-So Barren Earth

Saturday, 30th March 2013

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Rare when an instrumental becomes the focal point of an album with 14 songs, yet Edge of the Earth, the newest from UK thrashers Sylosis has the unbeatable centrepiece of “Where the Sky Ends.” Not to mince words or make totally “out-there” statements, but “Where the Sky Ends” might be the most memorable instrumental to come our way since Death’s “A Voice of the Soul.” It’s the blessed union between soaring guitar harmonies, crunchy riffs, and stratospheric guitar solos, all wound in a tight, compact song structure. It will prompt one to hit the “repeat” button…repeatedly. To check it out, click here.

Taking direct cues from 2009’s Conclusion Of An Age, Sylosis continue to wield the flag for modern UK thrash. Led by singer/guitarist Josh Middleton, the band continues to push the thrash template even further, combining technical riffing and elaborate solos, both of which allow the band to work around the dreaded “metalcore” tag, something Middleton was quick to bring up during our email interrogation.

Having assumed vocal duties prior to the recording of Edge of the Earth from the departed Jamie Graham, Middleton has his hands full, being that he handles most lead guitar duties AND writes the bulk of the band’s songs. That didn’t stop him from plunking down in front of a computer to respond to Blistering’s intrusive queries, and here’s how it went down: Obviously, the main difference between the new album and Conclusion of An Age is that you’ve assumed vocal duties. What prompted the move?

Josh Middleton: There were various reasons behind it but it was a band decision. We couldn’t see it working out. It wasn’t the idea for me to take over vocals straight away. We actually asked our friend Adam who used to sing for Viatrophy to join and he demoed some vocals, but he ended up moving too far away and we couldn’t think of anyone else, so I decided to put myself forward. Your voice is different than Jamie’s, so how do you think it fits into the new and old songs?

Middleton: I guess my voice suits the new material more than the old stuff because I wrote vocal parts that suited my voice. I think stylistically there isn’t a big difference in the vocals, though. I like to pitch the screams wherever possible really, so there’s some kind of melody within the screaming so it can hopefully add to the music as well as the aggressive feel. Are you comfortable doing double-duty and considering the technicality of some of your riffs, is it hard to pull some of your stuff off live?

Middleton: I think I’ve just recently got to the point where I’m comfortable. It’s really hard doing both but after a fair amount of practice it becomes second-nature. Once I’ve fully got a song learnt it’s just muscle memory kicking in. You did quite the spate of touring in support of Fear Factory, Black Dahlia Murder, etc. What did you take away from these experiences?

Middleton: Just more experience really. More experience that just comes naturally from playing live over time, but also watching the other bands every night and just absorbing some of the professionalism in terms of putting on a great live show. Is being a relatively young band on the road easier or harder than you thought? Better yet, how are you dealing with the normal pitfalls of the music industry?

Middleton: I think it’s easier when you’re young, I guess. We still crash on people’s floor when we’re on tour so we’re used to roughing-it. Also, some of us still live at home with our parents so we don’t have huge worries about trying to pay huge bills when we get back from tour. We’ve always known what to expect when it comes to being in a band, so we’ve got no real complaints! As for the new album, Edge of the Earth is as thrashy as its predecessor, but also more varied, especially in the melody department. Since you’re one of the main writers, was it obvious from the get-go that this album would have more flavor than the last one?

Middleton: I think so, yes. We really wanted to push ourselves as much as possible with the song writing. Even though a lot of the songs (and album on the whole) are quite long, it’s not due to laziness and just leaving parts in for the sake of it. Everything on the album is there because we feel it deserves to be there. I had a mindset of trying to create a really classic, majestic, thrash metal album. I’m really heavily inspired by Metallica’s …And Justice For All, Death’s Symbolic and Sepultura’s Arise, but I also love loads of proggressive music, so we wanted to make a really intense album but with a mature vibe so it’s not just meat-head metal. We kept getting tagged as a metalcore band but it’s not something we listen to or are inspired by, so we wanted to make sure this album was more old-school sounding. Just because we have some groove parts it doesn’t make us metalcore, we don’t play breakdowns. If we have slow grooves it’s because we love bands like Pantera, Exhorder, Crowbar and Gojira. Some people are going to take a look at how the lineup is set up and how lead-oriented the band is and think of Trivium. Would you agree with those sentiments? If not, why so?

Middleton: We have been compared to Trivium a few times (a lot on Youtube ha-ha) but I think it’s a bit lazy. I think there are obvious similarities, we are both now 4-piece bands and we both obviously love Metallica ha-ha. A lot of people, even around our age don’t know the classic old-school metal we love like Death, Forbidden, Sepultura, etc. so instead of getting compared to those bands it’s easier for them to lump us in with contemporary bands. It’s not something we’re bothered about though, we probably share similar influences as I know those guys are into Death too. We ditched playing a lot of that classic kind of Swedish, At the Gates-style riffing because you just get lumped in as metalcore these days. “Empyreal” is hands-down your finest song to date. Was that why it was chosen as the lead single?

Middleton: I think the main reason is because it’s one of the shorter songs on the album and also one of the few songs that has a chorus. The intro also has a lot of impact so we felt it was a good first song for some people to hear. “Where the Sky Hands” is another (for lack of a better term) brilliant song. Was there any hesitation to do a full-on instrumental that was so melodic?

Middleton: There was no hesitation. I wrote that one about three years ago and it’s one of my favorite songs we’ve done. I think it’s the most expressive piece of music I’ve written and it didn’t need lyrics. Screaming over it would have ruined the vibe and just putting melodic vocals would have been too obvious and cheesy. I think I’m the most proud of that song out of all of them. Lyrically, are there any particular threads running through the album?

Middleton: It’s a whole concept album about someone living in isolation for a lifetime. We haven’t revealed all the details of the storyline just yet, though. A lot of the songs have dual meanings where they tie in with the concept and move along with the plot but also have literal meanings reflecting personal experiences. The main idea for the concept came about through me having problems [with] insomnia which can lead to over-thinking things and feeling isolated. Luckily, it’s not so much of a problem for me these days and definitely not when we’re on tour because it’s exhausting – in a fun way. Like ConclusionEdge of the Earth is pretty lengthy. Are you worried that some songs toward the end of the album will get lost in the shuffle because there are so many?

Middleton: We were a little bit worried, but we really loved all the songs. In our eyes there was nothing filler and no songs were there just for the sake of it. I personally love long albums. If you’re painting, doing the housework – whatever – you don’t want to keep getting up to change the CD. Sometimes with long albums, I’ll listen to the first half only for a month in the car and then start from half way to the end the next month. I’m rambling on….but if people put the time in they will notice new things with each listen and it really grows on you. Hopefully this will keep our fans satisfied until we release our next album so they don’t need any other CDs ha-ha…and it’s good value for money! Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2011?

Middleton: We have some really cool summer festivals lined up as well as a tour that we can’t announce just yet. Hopefully we’ll be able to come to the States at the end of the year. We’ve already been hard at work gathering material for the next album too, so we won’t take as long to release another album.

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