“…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