Sound — 9
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.
Lyrics — 9
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.
Overall Impression — 9
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.