We caught up with AJ from Fire From The Gods by phone for a new interview, while he was self-quarantining at home with his family. AJ talked at length about how coronavirus is affecting him personally, how his band is spending the time at home working on new music, the last tours supporting their recent album American Sun (Better Noise), how he feels society and government need to work together in the future in light of the pandemic, what books are on his quarantine-list, and how he stays creative, mentally strong, and upbeat in these tough times. Continue reading
Professional development and expanding your understanding is not just crucial to making it in music, it’s a life long practice. Dumb and Dumbest Podcast number #152 is streaming now and it’s all about Why Reading Matters. Hosted by Matt Bacon (Dropout Media, Ripple Music, Prophecy Productions) and Publicist Curtis Dewar (Dewar PR), they also offer The Music Marketing Challenge, a low-cost, super high-value private training to bands and artists. Get hands-on practical experience to market your band like a pro today! Message them at the links below. Continue reading
Following in the footsteps of last year’s reading of “The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas“, Lars Ulrich was invited back to the BBC to spread more holiday cheer by telling the children’s classic “Stick Man” by Julia Donaldson earlier this week. Continue reading
For me, Sylosis have always made more sense as a live band. Their swirling combo of brutal riffs, intricate solos and breakdowns made perfect sense in the midst of a mosh pit, but on record that intensity is lost, and most of their records end up being enjoyable but lacking the killer spark.
But on their new album, Dormant Heart (Nuclear Blast), the band have finally added the missing element to their sound: killer songwriting. The usual mix of thrash, and melodic death metal with progressive elements have all been retained, but what sets this apart from prior releases is the ambition. The songs are better, the already impressive solos are tighter and the vocals more thought-out.
Where previous albums were pretty much all played at breakneck speed, the band bring down the tempo for much of the album. The likes of opener ‘Where the Wolves Come to Die’, ‘To Build a Tomb’ and second single ‘Leech’ are all slow, deliberate crushers and throughout Dormant Heart, you can hear the band moving on from pure aggression and adding a heavy, almost gloomy atmosphere.
There are still plenty of all-out thrashers though – the likes of ‘Victims and Pawns,’ ‘Indoctrinated’ and ‘Callous Souls’ would have been stand out tracks on any of the previous albums, but the record has far more variety in tempo and style than what’s come before. And of course the solos are breath-taking, it’s always been a strength, but here everything been taken up a notch. Every song features moments of fret-busting brilliance, and it’s hard to pick a standout moment.
As well as stellar music, this is frontman/guitarist Josh Middleton’s best vocal performance by far; the usual deathly growls are present, but he also pushes into clean singing at various points, showing off a side of Sylosis not heard since 2008’s Conclusion of an Age (also Nuclear Blast). On lead single ‘Mercy’ he combines the shred and scream template with a darker melody for the chorus.
The nine-minute closing track ‘Quiescent’ opens with a clean vocals and acoustic guitar, and is so at odds with what you expect from the band that it’s almost enough to question whether you’re still listening to the same band. From there it builds to a heavy and haunting finale.
Since their inception, Sylosis have been one of the brightest hopes for UK metal – few band can combine the fury and hook-laden riffs in the way these Reading boys can. But previous efforts often felt like a collection of awesome riffs and solos with no cohesion. With Dormant Heart, they’re finally starting to cash in on all that potential.
“…And Justice For All is a blueprint!” exclaims Josh Middleton. With their new album Dormant Heart out on January 12th via Nuclear Blast, in the second of our two features, the Sylosis guitarist/vocalist and mainman spoke to Ghost Cult to argue the case for progressive thrash, and why he’s turned to the Dark Side…
In terms of standing out on their own, while everyone else is obsessed with making each album “more extreme”, “more brutal” or “more ‘us’”, Sylosis have taken the unusual step of looking to make a stand alone album that says something in and of itself, but is not necessarily representative of the band as a whole or their direction of travel. The Sylosis sound and the trademark technicality in the playing is there, as is the progressive thrash that the band are renowned for, but added to that is a pervading sense of despondency and despair, an influence, in part that comes from not finding much to inspire in the current music scene.
“(The darker sound) came naturally. We naturally gravitate to darker music and dark imagery, anyway, but as I say, there are not many modern bands that do it for me, really, so if I do listen to more modern bands, it does tend to be the dark, doom bands and some of that bleeds across into our music. But, as much as we have gone for a really dark, gloomy album it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a direction we’re going to keep going down in the future, but we wanted this album to be its own thing.
“We’ve established ourselves as a band now; people know what we do, and at the heart of what we do is Thrash. But we wanted to try something different, and that starts with the opening track, doing the exact opposite of what we normally do – which is normally a long, progressive thrash song. So we did a short, doomy one, more of an intro track, that was really about setting the tone for the album. But that said, although it’s a darker album, there’s still tonnes of thrash on it, but we wanted to make it more varied that we’ve done in the past.”
For a band with a reputation for being technically able craftsmen of their weapons of choice, the guitar, this meant looking at, maybe not innovative, but alternate ways of expanding their proficiency and their arsenal.
“In terms of the guitars we wanted to up our game on this one. We’re always going to be known for doing the technical guitar stuff, and on one of the tracks, ‘Harm’, there’s a lot of sweep-picking and we had both guitars harmonising while sweep-picking and we’re definitely trying to expand and capitalise on our technical side, but overall there is more variety and while we’re definitely not going to start getting slower, we wanted this album to be dark and to be about the atmosphere.”
The lyrical concepts of a frustration with the pervasiveness in society of human apathy add to the frustration and despair that is ubiquitous throughout the album. “The music always comes first and then we take the lyrics and match them to the music, though even if the music was different in this case, lyrically it would probably have come out quite similarly as it’s just where my head was at when we were writing the album, though with the music being a lot darker and more sinister it helped the concepts to fit.”
“It’s been a long time coming, this one”, enthuses Middleton. “We started writing a couple of years ago and we began recording it back in March (2014), so by the time it comes out it’ll have been ten months from the start to it being released, so it’s been a long wait. We didn’t tell anyone we were going in the studio to begin with just in case we ran into any delays, which we did, so we had to keep it secret for quite a long time, but now it’s coming out.
“I’m really excited. We’re really proud of it.”
Words by STEVE TOVEY
“…And Justice For All is a blueprint!” exclaims Josh Middleton. With their new album Dormant Heart out on January 12th via Nuclear Blast, the Sylosis guitarist/vocalist and mainman spoke to Ghost Cult to argue the case for progressive thrash, his bands’ legacy…
Sylosis have come a long way, fairly quickly. Since releasing their debut Conclusion Of An Age on Nuclear Blast in 2008 and followed it up with successful, prestigious festival slots and some big name tours, the band made a name for themselves as one of the few UK bands to join in the international touring scene, wracking up support slots with The Black Dahlia Murder and Lamb Of God, amongst others, exposing their darkened progressive thrash to wider audiences.
A couple of consolidating albums later, and Reading’s finest (well, other than Kate Winslet… there is nowt finer from Reading than the Winslet) and Sylosis find themselves on the cusp of a breakthrough. By choosing to focus on claustrophobic atmospheres and moods, they are seeking to make a statement with Dormant Heart by making an album to reflect these current, depressive times.
Yet to make that breakthrough to headliner status on an international scale, a USP is vital. So what is the Sylosis legacy? What makes them so different…?
“I’d never try and suggest we’re the most original band”, begins Middleton, “but we do have a sound and a mix of influences that I don’t hear in anybody else, and we do have a defined sound and I think we’re definitely making a name for ourselves in the scene.
“We take our old school thrash influences, but rather than doing it in a revivalist way or going along with a lot of stuff that goes hand in hand with thrash, like cartoons and skulls, we then draw from more sophisticated music, progressive bands like Cult of Luna and Neurosis. As much as we wear our influences on our sleeve, we do have a mix of influences I don’t hear anywhere else. It seems people are picking up on that and we have seemed to have carved our own unique sound.”
While world domination is not on their current agenda, it does seem with each release Sylosis are building something…
“It’s been a slow and steady rise for us, but we see our fan base growing with each album and we see the older fans sticking around with us, which is really good. In terms of a legacy, I think we have established ourselves and we’re trying to cultivate the spirit and inclusivity that Chuck Schuldiner had in Death. That’s what we’ve been going for.”
It’s rare to hear a “serious” band closely aligning themselves to the genre tag of Thrash as it conjures certain Bermuda-shorted images, in no small part to the recent retro-revivalist fad that seems to have been and gone. While thrash is embraced in the UK with Savage Messiah and Evile bringing the chug, when you apply “thrash” to Sylosis, we’re looking at the more developed, latter-day thrash, rather than the pin-the-tail-on-the-‘Piranha’.
As far as Sylosis is concerned, while there’s plenty of room for the old school, the elements that work into their sound come from the more cerebral albums, such as …And Justice For All (Vertigo), Nevermore or Low (Testament – Roadrunner).
“To be honest, we always rely heavily on an influence like …And Justice For All. That album is one of the biggest influences on our band and as far as I’m concerned …Justice is a genre all to itself and a blueprint for us. I like the meathead thrash stuff, I always have and I always will, but I try and only take the elements I like the most from it; speed, the intensity and types of riffing, but not doing in a cheesy or comical way, and not talking about zombies in space.
“As much as I enjoy listening to it, we want our own sound, to put our own stamp on it. We mix it with something like Neurosis, who are a real thinking man’s band, a band you really have to give them a good amount of time to really take in and get into it. Our influences are quite diverse, and then take that and you then make it into a cohesive thing.”
Yet there can’t be too many bed-fellows around? When it comes to hitting the road, there’s not much out there that matches up style wise to Sylosis.
“I accept my finger’s not completely on the pulse, but there aren’t many other UK bands that do it for me. It is hard for UK bands, like us, because there’s not really anyone out there who’s really broken through or gained any real international recognition that you can look to. It is harder for more traditional metal bands in the UK because the UK press prefer to focus on the more ‘exotic’ American bands. Also it’s a small country with so there’s not many bands that you’d say are really “good”. But that’s not my opinion on the UK metal scene, or just the UK, that’s how it is everywhere. For every 100 bands only maybe only 10% will be good, no matter what the style is or where they’re from.
“In terms of when we tour the UK, the audiences are amazing and there’s definitely a strong metal scene, but in terms of others bands that have really managed to break through, there’s not many that a prevalent. But there are bands like Chapters who write really great stuff, but there are very few people who know of them. It is hard for UK bands.
“The metal scene worldwide, there’s not much that does it for me. Of the more modern bands, there’s Black Breath or some of the more doomy bands like Pallbearer but that’s about it.”
Words by STEVE TOVEY