Released: Oct 5, 2012
Genre: Progressive Thrash Metal, Progressive Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast
Number Of Tracks: 11
Despite having the album for only a short time I believe "Monolith" is Sylosis' best work to date. It is certainly their darkest release lyrically and stylistically, and their most atmospheric.
RedFangTheMan, on october 10, 2012 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: "Monolith" is the third full length release from the Reading, UK based band Sylosis. The band have often been described as "Progressive Thrash" which is definitely a fair description of their sound. They are heavily thrash influenced with strong elements of melodic death metal and progressive metal. "Monolith" is certainly closer to the sound of their last record "Edge Of The Earth" then their debut "Conclusion Of An Age". The progressive sound is strongly evident as it was in "Edge Of The Earth" however there is more of an atmospheric feel to this album at times. Lead guitarist/ vocalist/ main songwriter Josh Middelton has delivered an unbelievable performance throughout this album, his ability to pull off such fast and technical riffs whilst delivering vocals is astounding. In terms of sound this is a big progression from the last recorded effort, with more textures and different feels to the sound on offer.
01. "Out From Below" - it kicks things off and is arguably their best album opener yet. An atmospheric intro leads into a relentlessly fast thrash riff and continues at a speedy pace. This really sets the tone for the album as it also contains huge sounding lead guitar, shredding breaks from Josh and the intense drumming skills of Rob Callard. There is also strong bass sound in this track from Carl Parnell. And excellent opener for the new album.
02. "Fear The World" - it is an interesting track with some aggressive vocals particularly in the chorus, the slow intro followed by a sudden fast riff. There are some great tempo changes and this is quite a diverse track in terms of the guitar playing in particular.
03. "What Dwells Within" - it is another song with a slow, calm intro before the introduction of faster riffing and drums, with some complex riffs. The atmospheric break in the middle is a nice change in pace which really adds to the quality of the song. The clean vocals from Middleton in this section are excellent, before his screams return.
04. "Behind The Sun" - it is a great track featuring more tempo changes and some very good soloing. More clean vocals are used in the middle section which really show how far Josh has come as a vocalist. The lead section following the singing brought to mind a solo that Mastodon could have written.
05. "The River" - it starts with some sampled effects which build up the intro, making this one of the more unique tunes. The intro riff that follows is heavy yet very catchy. This track has an epic feel to it, with a very open sound. The melodic lead guitar adds to this. The end section has a very heavy feel, before fading out into and absent part for the last 30 seconds.
06. "Monolith" - it has a very ominous introduction which is heard again later on in the song. The middle break is also very dark sounding and is backed by some excellent guitar playing in the background, which leads back into the final sections of the track. The final parts of this track sound huge before an atmospheric fade out to the end.
07. "Paradox" - it is a progressive 6 minute song with awesome vocals from Middleton and some great drum fills from Callard. The riffs have great groove to them in this song. Like some of the other songs, "Paradox" has a short melodic break around the middle before the return of more heaviness. The shred based solo towards the end is also fantastic. There are also some layered clean vocals in the background below the growls at one point which sound great.
08. "A Dying Vine" - it is truly outstanding and is easily one of the best songs on "Monolith". It will go down an absolute storm live. Massive thrash riffing, shred based but tasteful leads and intense vocals are heard throughout. Some keyboards also add background atmosphere to a harmonised lead part. Alex Bailey's rhythm guitars really add great groove alongside Middleton's leads. The intro is very powerful with a hugely fast riff which continues into the verse. Middleton's screams are excellent in this song. An acoustic outro finishes the song.
09. "All Is Not Well" - it certainly adds diversity to the album as it is based around a more doomy, heavy sound with the guitar playing. This slower approach certainly brings something different to the sound of "Monolith". The speed picks up after the slower intro and a great shredding lead section is played by Middleton. An excellent track as the album heads towards its conclusion.
10. "Born Anew" - it was the first song to be released prior to the album and it displays a lot of what Sylosis do very well. Harmonised lead guitar and massive grooves fill "Born Anew". The solo starting at 2:10 is fantastic, one of the best solos on the album, combining melody with speed. The riff at 3:09 is hugely groovy and catchy whilst remain gin heavy.
11. "Enshrined" - it is use to be a song which will cause a lot of debate among fans, and already has. Its epic 19:16 minute length and change in pace make it a hugely progressive track. There is a lot of fast riffing throughout the first few sections, with very catchy lead guitar work alongside it. After 5 minutes the song completely fades out into an extended silence of 10 minutes. After this, what the band have referred to as a hidden track is heard. This mainly acoustic section finishes the song and the album. Without exaggeration, I have to say this second part of the song is possibly the most beautiful piece of music I've ever heard. I didn't expect this to be at the end of the album by any means and I'm sure most fans didn't either. "Enshrined Part 2", if you like, showcases how Josh Middleton has grown so much as a vocalist. His singing in this section is truly amazing, and the song is unlike anything they've ever done before. // 9
Lyrics: The vocals are outstanding on this album, and are a big step up from the last record. The clean signing impressed me most, particularly on "Enshrined". Mainly low - mid growls are used along with higher screams which are certainly impressive throughout. Lyrically the album is partially based around a concept like with "Edge Of The Earth", only a much different idea this time around. I haven't seen a lyric sheet yet but from what lyrics I've gathered, "Monolith" is very good in this aspect, with an intriguing lyrical concept. The band have stated that the album is loosely based on the Greek myth of Orpehus and Eurydice, however the album is not set in Greece. The band have also emphasised that the lyrics often focus upon the ideas of selfishness and manipulation among other negative qualities, and reflecting that people aren't always as good a person as they think they are. Josh has said that it also explores "recognising these flaws and trying to make a change, or accepting them, revelling in it almost". This fits really well with the overall concept. Its also been explained that a lot of the lyrics are personal to Josh himself. In certain areas its clear the lyrics follow the Greek myth storyline, with lines such as "nothing can turn back time, nothing can keep you alive", which surely must be Orpheus mourning the death of Eurydice. // 8
Overall Impression: Despite having the album for only a short time I believe "Monolith" is Sylosis' best work to date. I love their previous two albums but I feel "Monolith" has something even more to it. It is certainly their darkest release lyrically and stylistically, and their most atmospheric, however their is still a lot of contrast and a lot of light and shade throughout each song. The standout tracks for me are "Out From Below", "What Dwells Within", "A Dying Vine", and "Enshrined", however there are no filler tracks here whatsoever. A mention must be made of the production, by rising UK based producer Romesh Dodangoda, whose production suits the music perfectly. It has a very "live" feel to it in many areas which really adds to the experience of this album. "Monolith" is certainly something which is better listened to as a whole, as is the case with a lot of prog influenced music. Other reviews I've seen have noted the length as a criticism, with it being well over an hour in length, but more music from a band of this quality is no bad thing for me, its always going to be a positive. Sylosis definitely have the potential to leave a lasting mark on the world metal scene, and have begun to get the recognition they deserve over the past year or so. "Monolith" will hopefully see them rise even further, and become a hugely important band for metal fans worldwide. // 9
naw2, on february 22, 2013 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: If you have heard the previous Sylosis release "Edge Of The Earth" then you do know exactly what you are getting from this 2012 release. It is a mixture of old school thrash metal with massive nods toward both modern and classic death metal it is clear to see they have a large and illustrious list of influences. However what they have managed to pull off with this album, much like their previous is to make a sound that is familiar yet also unique within the Metal genre as we know it to be.
This down mostly to the vocalist and lead guitarist Josh Middleton who writes most of the bands music. As a Guitarist he is, in my view, one of the best in the world right now. This is clearly shown in his guitar work which while has flashy shredding tricks which you would expect also makes a very big point of also writing lead passages where it is all about the strength of the melody. It is a fantastic trait which a lot of people, including myself, feel a lot of modern metal music is sometimes missing.
Furthermore the sound of this entire record is helped a great deal by being recorded mostly live, particularly the guitar, bass and drum parts. This seems like it was a deliberate move to make sure that the sound of the songs was a pure and realistic as they could possibly give. This is a good move as far as I am concerned because it means that the band are definitely able to reproduce their material in a live setting.
The only thing I believe that the album is missing as compared to "Edge Of The Earth" is a fully instrumental track in the vein on "Where The Sky Ends" but that is just a personal preference. // 9
Lyrics: Going back to Josh Middleton again we look at the lyrics and vocals. He is still relatively new as a vocalist this only being his second album doing them. However there is a very distinct and big growth in not only ability to scream but also to sing clean vocals. There is a very bi indication of this on the albums 2nd track "Fear The World". The screams are very much as you would expect if you know this band: varied in style with good depth to them. However it is the clean vocals that surprise the most because while they certainly are not the most amazing clean ever laid down they are strong and convincing which is a very good sign for Middleton as an evolving vocalist. Furthermore the use of clean vocals is sparing and not overly frequent which, in my opinion makes it a very nice change of pace whenever it comes around.
The lyrics are based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. This alone shows great depth of writing ability and massive ambition to make a concept album of this type. Not being very familiar with the story I could not possibly comment on the accuracy to the original story but looking at this lyrics as a whole I can say that Josh Middleton has done a fantastic job making sure that each songs lyrics fit extremely well which each song. // 9
Overall Impression: 1. "Out From Below" - This is an attention grabbing album opener. The brooding, foreshadowing nature of the intro which then grows into some massive thrash riffs show within the first 90 seconds that this album means business. Following this on is an extremely emphatic chorus, a tremendous guitar solo filled to the brim with both insane technical skill and strong melodic phrasing and a fantastic marching band-esque outro bring the album to life instantaneously.
2. "Fear The World" - Another intro using clean guitars building up to a tempo change giving you only seconds to rest after the relative insanity of the previous track. This track has the first use of clean vocals as part of the build to the songs main guitar solo. It is a very effective few phrases and is given added boot but also have harsh vocals backing it up. Furthermore the first half of the main guitar solo has tremendous feeling and passion behind it before it opens up to more technical phrasing.
3. "What Dwells Within" - The beginning of this song, whilst still in keeping with the thrash style the band are best known for comes across as almost a mixture of fast doom metal which is a very interesting idea. More of the same when it comes to riff but this song backs off the pace more frequently so's not to be overly similar to the two preceding songs.
4. "Behind The Sun" - The first song with a distorted guitar intro changes the impact of the song right from the off. One of the best parts of the song is the use of interesting cord progressions which stray away from the home key of G minor whilst being able to still smoothly progress. Furthermore I think the bridge leading to and including the main guitar solo is in multiple instances are excellent melodically.
5. "The River" - The use of the flowing river as a sound effect at the start of the song as well as the seemingly reversed acoustic guitar continue to show off this bands skill for foreboding, atmospheric intro's. The overall work of guitars and bass is where this song shines the most. The harmony solo in the middle of the track is also to be commended as it shows second guitarist Alex Bailey is now slouch either in terms of skill.
6. "Monolith" - The title track is an interesting track because as best I can tell after listening to it any times it seems to be based entirely around three musical ideas with slight variations around each of them. However despite this odd simplicity this song is a power house. Another which seems like it is based on both doom metal and death metal rather than thrash.
7. "Paradox" - One of the first tracks on the album to kick in with an instantly heavy intro, it does mark itself as different from the tracks in the album's first half. The strongest assets of this song are an absolutely thumping chorus, in which Middleton is able to combine are rough vocals with melodic phrasing to create a very powerful section, and a big resounding outro with a nice fade out effect.
8. "A Dying Vine" - A simple but undeniably thrash metal riff gets this song started with little to no fuss. It barrels along changing tempo more than once, then changes the key during the guitar solo. This is probably the least memorable song on the album. At least until the outro were it brings in acoustic guitars playing patterns that are both forward and reversed. A surprising redeeming feature but a welcome one.
9. "All Is Not Well" - That opening riff is an absolute sledgehammer with it's simplicity and bulk. However despite it's beefy nature it's not the heaviest part of the song, that being the 4 bar pattern at the end of chorus which features some of the best use of Sylosis's lower power chord riffs which reduce the need for down tuning or using guitars with extra strings. This song is one of those that slowly beats you down rather than at the frenetic pace of the large majority of this record goes at.
10. "Born Anew" - The most musically intense intro on the CD sets up for a fast frenetic pace but at no stage does it go that way. It's groovy track showing off the skill of the vocalist as a screamer more than at any other point on this album. The bridge of the song is built up nicely to a sensational guitar solo. This being the shortest song on the album it almost ends before you would expect it to and that is something that always catches me out. However that is not to say I wish that song had been longer.
11. "Enshrined" - The last official song on the album stats with a foreboding intro and is followed with perhaps the heaviest and most thrashy riffs on the whole. The massive impact of the first half of this song is so awfully intense you can feel yourself being swept along in it's roller-coaster of tempo changes and mood whiplash about 3 minutes in. The clean vocals are big plus point in this song. It shows a massive low sitting clean vocal and a fantastic use of dynamics to snap the listener back into the end of the song.
12. Secret Track - If you leave this track alone after about 10 minutes after it has faded this acoustic track starts in it's place. And it is something to behold. Beautifully sung and fantastically arranged it shows a writing skill that this band have up until now yet to show. Following on from a couple of verses and choruses it actually breaks into a slower version of the intro from 'Out From Below' which brings this massive album to a close.
If I had to pick a best track from this album I would have to pick either the opener "Out From Below" or "Paradox". As far as I am concerned they both show Josh Middleton as a Heavy Metal song writer who I believe is simply operating on a different plane to his modern peers and is rivaling some of the greatest thrash metal writers of all such as James Hetfield of Metallica and Scott Ian of Anthrax. However to see he could do this on his own is ridiculous as the rest of the band, who could almost go unnoticed sometimes are also 3 very special musicians. Alex Bailey (Rhythm Guitar), Carl Parnell (Bass) and Rob Callard (Drums) are the glue that holds the songs together and without them I don't think this record and the songs on it would be half as good as it is.
Before this album I would have said Sylosis were the best young metal band in the UK and had the potential to break out but they needed an album of immense quality. What they have done with Monolith is exceed my expectations like I could have never imagined. The technical skill, song writing ability and the ambition that this band are showing, as well as their intense live shows is just a sign that in my opinion this is the best active and upcoming Metal band on the planet right now. If they can follow this album up, who knows what this band can achieve.