SYLOSIS’ MONOLITH IGNITES THE FLAME INSIDE
A little more than halfway through “Out From Below,” the opening track from Sylosis’ Monolith, the band breaks out what must be one of the best Metallica riffs that Metallica never wrote; then, just twenty seconds later, the band suddenly-but-seamlessly transitions into what might actually be the best Metallica riff that Metallica never wrote. Fans of thrash that feels traditionalist, but not retro, will find themselves completely unable to turn Monolith off from that point forward; the album has now sunk its hooks into your skin like a Cenobite, and you are just going to have to hang there and go with it. Fret only for anything you were supposed to accomplish during the album’s running time; that hour-and-twelve minutes is going to fly by in what will feel like a flash.
Like Revocation, Sylosis play modern thrash — not rethrash. It’s important to understand the distinction: they don’t necessarily want to reinvent the wheel, but their music doesn’t ignore the three decades of evolution that metal has undergone since Bonded by Blood, either. Sylosis aren’t afraid to indulge little creative flourishes that even their most revered forefathers probably never would: a dizzying string section during the chorus of “What Dwells Within,” a dreamy, cigarette-lighter-worthy arena rock solo during “The River,” a brief, tasteful use of clean crooning on “Behind the Sun,” a haunting, Opeth-esque semi-ballad that appears as a hidden track long after the album has officially concluded — these kinds of moments prevent Monolith from sounding antiquated or clichéd.
Of course, what allows Sylosis to pull these moments off is the fact that they have pretty much mastered all the important basics: their riffs are uniformly tasty, Josh Middleton and Alex Bailey’s harmonized guitars are always momentous, drummer Rob Callard and bassist Carl Parnell pretty much always knows exactly what each moment of each track calls for, and, oh yeah, they just write really damn good songs. Like, really, really goddamn good songs. Like I said, the album is over an hour long, which seems shocking after you listen to it once… just, like, iTunes must be lying. Maybe my attention span is getting shorter as I get older, but it feels like a lot of metal albums this year, even if they start strong, eventually turn into a guest who won’t leave, so the fact that this album is on the longer side and still manages to hold the listener’s attention the entire time is really stupendous.
Also, producer Romesh Dodangoda deserves a high five. Monolith sounds great from start to finish; it’s just the right balance of punishment and polish. Good job, dude!
Sylosis (again, like Revocation) feel important to me in that they could very easily represent metal’s future. Not dissimilarly from bands like Pantera and Lamb of God, they’re accessible enough to be gateway bands, but don’t simply cater to a lowest-common-denominator audience; they’re undeniably heavy, but not necessarily niche; they’re cool, but not trendy. And it feels like Sylosis are still just scratching the surface of their capabilities; I thought their last album, Edge of the Earth, was really fantastic, and only a year later, they’ve flat-out smoked it. If Monolith is this friggin’ good, I can only imagine what kind of power Sylosis are going to wield in the not-too-distant future.
(4 1/2 outta 5 horns)