Thursday, 29 January 2015

Sylosis' 'Dormant Heart' - Album Review

Sylosis can no longer be called rising stars and, while the band may not have quite broken through into the big time like many predicted, they continue to impress. I felt the band missed a trick after 2012's Monolith - the band's third studio album. An extensive headline tour was never really undertaken to support the album, and very little of it ever made the band's set. Sure, the plentiful support slots they undertook during the Monolith touring cycle did wonders to increase the band's popularity, but the horrific crash they were involved in during an American tour with Trivium and DevilDriver really dented any exposure they were due in the States. Sometimes luck is just not on your side. Sylosis have done well with support slots over the years, and have been on the road with a diverse range of acts, but I feel a lack of a proper headline tour supporting Monolith was a strange move. Three years on and we now have Dormant Heart, the band's fourth album. Fans of the band will immediately like what they hear. The progressive thrash metal the band have become known for is still here in swathes, and no great changes to the band's sound are present. However, this could possibly be the band's greatest achievement yet. While still grand in scope and crushingly heavy, it seems that more thought was given to melody and song structure on this album. The meandering arrangements that sometimes made Monolith and predecessor 2011's Edge of the Earth hard to follow have been trimmed back here to create a tighter, more polished overall sound. The riffs here are much more memorable, and Josh Middleton's vocals are the strongest they have ever sounded. His personal trajectory is remarkable really. He was never originally the band's vocalist - a position held by Jamie Graham (now of Heart of a Coward) on their 2008 debut Conclusion of an Age - but the way he has stepped up to the plate since Graham's departure has been great to watch. Each new album brings an improved performance from him and on Dormant Heart we see his best performance; both vocally and with the guitar. It is also worth noting that this is the band's last album with long-time drummer Rob Callard, who left the band last year. He had not played live with the band for a while following complications arising from the crash in America, and his live replacement Ali Richardson (Bleed from Within) has now joined the band full-time.

The album starts with a short, doomy track called Where the Wolves Come to Die that really sets the mood for what is to come. Like how Lamb of God started 2012's Resolution with Straight for the Sun to great effect, Sylosis have done a similar thing here. The slow burning riffs and occasional tortured leads only help to create a dark and unsettling atmosphere, that is helped by Middleton's screams. Victims and Pawns gets the album well and truly underway however with some modern thrash riffs that will be familiar with all fans of the band. Middleton uses his improved vocal range to great effect on this song, mixing low growls with higher screams to create good variety. Where the verses are fast and typically thrash, the chorus adopts a slower tempo, making great use of cleaner guitar arpeggios the sit just underneath the heavy rhythm guitars. As the song moves on, we are treated to a strange, atmospheric section that contains industrial sounds and beats, before Middleton lets rip with his first solo of the album. The album's title track follows, and it is another pacy track with a simple, yet catchy riff that stands out from the moment you hear it. Callard's drumming on this song is furious, and on his swansong with the band he shows what a talent he is. The choruses have some excellent swirling lead guitars behind the vocals, and the overall furious nature of the song means that this is sure to be an excellent live number. To Build a Tomb opens with some Eastern-sounding guitar leads, and this vibe remains subtly throughout the song. This is a much more mid-paced number, making excellent use of groove and the power of Middleton's screams to carry it. The Eastern leads make many appearances throughout, and swirling atmospherics help to enhance that mood during certain sections of the song. The song speeds up towards the end though, with a shredding solo and some neck-breaking riffs from the band. The next highlight is Leech, which really is a stunning piece of work. The melodic nature of this song helps it stand out from the pack with some really catchy lead guitar lines and a proper, sing-a-long chorus. There is something of Trivium in this song, which can only be a good thing, and this is easily the band's most accessible tune yet. Fear not though, this is not some pop song, and all the hallmarks of the band's sound are present. The guitar solo in this song is another excellent piece of work that starts of slowly and increases speed as it goes along, building to an exciting crescendo of doomy riffing.

Servitude is a slower, more laden track that has plenty of discordant moments amongst the more traditional, crushing guitar riffs. After the melodic nature of Leech, this song hits you like a hammer and takes you back in the darker world created by the earlier songs. Again, like To Build a Tomb, the song speeds up as it goes through, ditching the doom for thrash once more and supplying another face-melting solo into the mix. After a slightly haunting introduction, Indoctrinated comes along and attempts to take your head off. This is a relentless, modern thrash number that is angry, yet strangely compelling. Riff after excellent riff follow one another here and Middleton's vocals are the nastiest they have ever sounded. Moments of this song almost break into full on death metal territory, although these moments are sparse. It is over almost as quickly as it begun, and is sure to leave you in need of catching your breath. Harm is very traditional Sylosis. Both Edge of the Earth and Monolith were full of moments like this, down to the trademark arpeggiated guitar leads that Middleton is so proficient at. The end section which features multi-tracked leads and some epic, chanted clean vocals is a pleasure to listen to, and the song's bellowed chorus is another that will stick in the brain for a long time. Mercy is the album's leading single and introduced the fans to their first Dormant Heart experience. After the slightly alternative rock introduction, the thrash metal is back in full force. Middleton uses his clean vocals during the song's chorus however, something which he does from time to time - and it helps to make the song stand out. His cleans are not as strong as his harsh delivery, but it works well. The guitar solo is another memorable one, using more traditional metal phrasing and powerful note-bends to create something different for the band. The song's end is another doomy workout that uses some really slow and powerful riffs to create something heavy and atmospheric. After that, the next highlight is the album's final song Quiescent - which is something that really breaks new ground for the band. The band's progressive influences really show here, as the song is a long, acoustic-led piece that showcases Middleton's clean vocals and a much more stripped-back overall sound. Despite the fact the song mostly makes use of acoustic guitars, the dark atmosphere created throughout the album still remains, and is in fact enhanced with this song. Overall, Dormant Heart is a real triumph for the band. While I have always liked their work, I think this will be the album that really transforms me into a full-fledged fan of theirs. I had to be in the right mood for their earlier work, but this is an album I can play any time, and it is sure to get a lot of love here.

The album was released on 12th January 2015 via Nuclear Blast Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Mercy.

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