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Sylosis - A Sign Of Things To Come review

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Band: Sylosis
Album: A Sign Of Things To Come
Release date: September 2023

01. Deadwood
02. A Sign Of Things To Come
03. Pariahs
04. Poison For The Lost
05. Descent
06. Absent
07. Eye For An Eye
08. Judas
09. Thorns
10. A Godless Throne

The title of this album arguably would have better suited its predecessor; at the time, Cycle Of Suffering and the standalone singles that followed it sounded like the sign of things to come for Sylosis. With their latest effort, the thing to come has arrived; it’s something I thought could never happen, but Sylosis have managed to make an album I’m not particularly enthusiastic about.

I already made my position on Sylosis’ early records clear when I reviewed Cycle Of Suffering; Edge Of The Earth and Monolith continue to hold a special place in my heart, but truth be told, even though I enjoy Dormant Heart a lot, early indications of where the group’s musical trajectory would ultimately take them were already beginning to emerge. The more ambitious and progressive songwriting touches on the earlier duo of releases were diminished on Dormant Heart, so it was perhaps not a surprise that, when the group returned from their hiatus, the songwriting was continuing to move in a more streamlined and accessible direction, as the metalcore influences that had shifted far into the background after Conclusion Of An Age made their presence clearly felt again. Subsequent singles “Worship Decay” and “Heavy Is The Crown” further betrayed the band’s apparent arena ambitions, leading us to the present day and the release of A Sign Of Things To Come.

The gap in sound between this new album and Cycle Of Suffering is perhaps smaller than that between, say, Cycle Of Suffering and Monolith, but it is still a substantial shift. Sylosis still have the signature riff style rooted in a powerful modern thrash sound, but the alt-metal/metalcore aspirations, which may owe at least part of their existence to Josh Middleton’s recently concluded stint in Architects, are arguably more pronounced this time around. This isn’t in every way; contrasted with the back-to-back breakdown-fests on Cycle Of Suffering (“Arms Like A Noose” and “Devils In Their Eyes”), breakdowns aren’t quite as prevalent here. However, clean-sung verses and choruses are far more common here than on any release since Conclusion Of An Age, and the average tempo of the record is notably slower than any of the predecessors, thanks to the presence of a substantial number of tracks that either reside entirely or dip frequently into stomping mid-tempo range.

One thing that is carried over from Cycle Of Suffering is the dark tone, which is partly down to the continued downtuning of the guitars; meaty cuts such as “Deadwood” and “Judas” have bite to their sharp riffs and gloom in their more dirge-like moments. Additionally, Middleton’s lead guitar skills remain undeniable, with scene-stealing solos in both these songs, as well as the likes of “Pariahs”; there’s also some of his signature tapping lead work in the chorus of “Poison For The Lost”. At the fundamental level, Sylosis do still retain aspects of what (at least in my eyes) their appeal was built upon.

Before focusing too much on what frustrates or deters me regarding this album, if I try to look at the record from a standalone perspective, there are still songs and moments here that reflect Middleton’s innate songwriting talent. “Deadwood” is a respectable opener, particularly as it moves into its second half and unleashes first a slick techy riff and then an effective clean vocal passage. Beyond that, the relatively chuggy “Pariahs” is elevated by an exciting sweep solo section, “Judas” has a good mix of slower atmospheric gloom, frenetic riff attack and a strong solo, and “A Godless Throne” builds from a tempting ominous intro into a broadly satisfying ripper, with good shifting between fast and slower riffs along with nice integration of guitar leads. Around these tracks, there are other good riffs, solos and moody moments to be found.

Nevertheless, as much as the depth of my disappointment with A Sign Of Things To Come is driven by my past affection for the band’s earlier work, if we consider a hypothetical situation in which this album was released by a band I had never previously heard of, I suspect that I would have not felt any inclination to give it more than one listen. In contrast, as much as the amount of exposure I gave to Cycle Of Suffering was down to it being the first album in five years from one of my favourite bands, I feel the record was strong enough and had enough standout songs that I would have been compelled towards it even if it was released by a newcomer. My biggest disappointment with this new album is that there isn’t a single song that I feel eager to revist; I believe there are several issues that are causing this.

First, I want to touch upon the clean vocals. Middleton has clearly worked a lot on improving his clean singing since its first appearances on Edge Of The Earth, and by now he is a notably more competent singer than on prior albums, or compared with Jamie Graham on Conclusion Of An Age. However, the actual clean vocal sections themselves are, for the most part, not nearly as compelling. I enjoy the refrain late in “Deadwood”, but otherwise, the verses and choruses on A Sign Of Things To Come are largely unengaging, and in the case of the chorus on “Thorns” (which is the closest Sylosis have ever gotten to Architects territory), I find it to be offputtingly bland. Perhaps the most disappointing instance comes on closing song “A Godless Throne”; this track is so primed to be the album’s highlight, building really effectively for the first 2.5 minutes, but when the climactic clean vocal refrain arrives, surrounded by the ringing bell sounds, it really flatters to deceive.

Beyond the vocals, there’s a few other things whose presence or absence contributes to my overall feelings towards A Sign Of Things To Come. I enjoyed Sylosis’ first experiment with a slower, trudging track when they included “All Is Not Well” on Monolith, but subsequent attempts such as “Servitude” and “Calcified” have done little for me; there’s something about the dry, plodding feel of slow Sylosis riffs that I struggle to engage with, probably because there’s little else happening during such segments to add any meaningful flavour. Therefore, when about half the songs on this release go in this direction, most notably the title track, “Descent” and “Eye Of An Eye”, it’s probably not much of a surprise that I find myself struggling more with the record as a whole.

The thing that I most mourn, though, is the absence of classic Sylosis epic/melodic moments, whose presence on the likes of “Apex Of Disdain”, “Cycle Of Suffering” and “Empty Prophets” helped drive my enthusiasm for the band’s previous album. The lack of these elements plays a big part in the songs here ultimately being so unmemorable and failing to demand one’s attention. Aside from the failed attempt with “A Godless Throne”, probably the closest they get to such a moment is the sweeping passage in “Pariahs” and subsequent synth-laden grandstand, and this does turn an otherwise relatively unremarkable song into one of my favourites here, but it’s not an especially impressive sequence compared with what the band are capable of.

I appreciate the motivation behind Middleton taking Sylosis in their current direction, and I don’t think it’s a move that should inherently result in underwhelming music; Conclusion Of An Age was equally chorus-oriented as these last two releases, and I still consider it to be an excellent example of its style. However, first with “Heavy Is The Crown” and now this new album, I feel that the execution is lacking compared to what Sylosis have proven themselves capable of in the past. A Sign Of Things To Come is fundamentally a decent and competent album for the style, with enough good material to make for a reasonably enjoyable listening experience, but it really disappoints me that Sylosis have produced a record that does so little to make itself essential listening.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 6
Production: 8

Written on 16.09.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 1   Visited by: 95 users
17.09.2023 - 14:00

That was excellently written and largely echoes my thoughts on the current era of the band. I loved it that you tried to keep an open mind an ended up finding some positives too.
My main problem with this new incarnation of Sylosis is that while I find none of the songs to be really weak on their own, the whole (i.e. the full record) somehow feels to be less than the sum of its parts. The compositions, however hard they might try to differentiate themselves, begin to overstay their welcome and 45-50 minutes of the new stuff feel longer than 60-70 minutes of the old proggy Sylosis.
If they chose to combine lengthier dynamic tracks of yore with arena bangers of the modern age, I think we could get a pretty exciting record that both groups of fans might ultimately appreciate.
I will continue to revisit the new opus and maybe I’ll learn to accept it for what it is, but for now it’s a bit disappointing, if still enjoyable

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