British quartet Sylosis are best known for their super tight brand of heavy metal which combines influences of bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Pantera and Death without sounding derivative or dated. They rose to international fame with their sophomore effort Edge of The Earth which blended punishing groove with highly precise sweep picking and furious riffing, all while tuned to standard. In 2012, they returned with Monolith which carried a lot of the same elements forward but introduced a more melodic sensibility to their sound. The band returns this year with their new album Dormant Heart, the last album to feature long time drummer Rob Callard, who is now being replaced by Ali Richardson of Bleed From Within.
Dormant Heart opens with “Where the Wolves Come to Die”, which introduces mid tempo riffs at various places, over the familiar thrash fare that the band has presented over the years. This isn’t to say that Sylosis have abandoned their thrash roots. Songs like “Victims and Pawns”, “Dormant Heart” and “Indoctrinated” will easily satiate your appetite for fast and aggressive mosh pit anthems. “Servitude”, “Callous Souls” and “To Build a Tomb” hark back to their Edge of The Earth days with a Pantera-like sense of groove. “Harm” bears all the hallmarks of a classic Sylosis song, also being the only song on the album to feature any sweep picking at all. Singles “Leech” and “Mercy” have already become fan favorites with their memorable leads and especially their almost sing-along choruses. “Overthrown” carries forward in a similar fashion with a clean sung chorus by Middleton. “Quiescent” is the highlight of this album combining acoustic guitars, pianos and clean singing vocals into a song that could easily belong on a movie soundtrack. A dramatic yet welcome shift in style by the band, it sees them expand on their songwriting abilities instead of trying to string together a collection “brutal” riffs.
Dormant Heart sees Scott Atkins (Cradle of Filth, Amon Amarth and Behemoth) once again handling production, engineering and mixing after working with the band on Edge of The Earth, with Tesseract’s Acle Kahney on mastering duties. The mix makes the instruments sound punchy and absolutely huge but seems to favor the drums and vocals, with the bass being slightly difficult to discern at times. Middleton’s vocals have certainly taken a step up with the bellowing growls being contrasted by well executed clean singing. The band has almost completely done away with the trademark sweep picking that was a highlight on previous albums, in songs like “Empyreal”, “Fear The World”, “A Dying Vine” and “Teras”. Even the solos are less flashy this time round, and are composed in a storytelling fashion, which can be a hit or miss at times but is certainly a step in the right direction for the band. All the performances are super tight as is the norm in Sylosis, with Middleton’s low gain standard-tuned sound finding a lot of takers in a music scene, saturated with bands that tune down as a rule. Another welcome element that comes forward on Dormant Heart is the atmospheric melody sections that serve as a good counterpart to the fast riffing that forms the heart of the album. Although at times the fast sections do seem to get a little repetitive, especially in an hour long album (“Indocrinated” bears an almost uncanny resemblance to “A Dying Vine” from Monolith, in certain sections).
Dormant Heart is not a perfect album, nor was that the intent. What it is however, is a picture of a band that is evolving steadily as songwriters and performers alike. The band experiment with their sound in small increments to avoid completely shocking their fan base (like The Faceless on Autotheism, or Opeth on Heritage). Whether that is enough or too little, only time will tell. Sylosis get better with each album, and are definitely on their way to becoming the future of British heavy metal and modern thrash metal in general.
Dormant Heart releases on January 12th, on Nuclear Blast Records. You can stream it in full here.