Sound — 9
"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.
Lyrics — 8
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.
Overall Impression — 9
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.