Do you like riffs? Josh Middleton likes riffs, and he and Sylosis have a truck-load of killer riffs (and some sad piano) to throw at you on their colossal comeback record Cycle of Suffering.
For a while it seemed like 2015’s Dormant Heart might have been the last Sylosis record. Although they never officially disbanded, the largely cult act’s future seemed largely uncertain, following mainman Middleton’s joining the high-profie and hard-touring Architects in 2017. Five years marks the longest interval between outings from Sylosis, who previously had a habit of churning out new material every two-to-three years and who even dropped their two best albums, 2011’s At the Edge of the Earth and 2012’s Monolith, back to back. Anxieties about the band’s future were perhaps accentuated by Middleton’s minimal presence on his only outing with Architects so far, 2018’s Holy Hell. Perhaps Middletons presence will be felt more on future Architects releases – Holy Hell having been largely based on material original guitarist Tom Searle had been working on before his tragic death in 2016. Those seeking a fix of Sylosis’s trademark thrash metal aggression were best looking elsewhere, with 2018’s Era – the most recent record from, drummer Ali Richardson’s other act, Bleed From Within, which really does sound like a thrash-infused Architects – providing a suitable substitute. Yet it remained uncertain if listeners would ever be treated to that specific brand of Middleton magic anytime soon, if ever again.
Fans needn’t have feared, however. The moment the Holy Hell touring cycle’s conclusion was in sight, Sylosis emerged out of the woodwork with an absolute vengeance. That Middleton’s contribution to Holy hell was minimal was seemingly because was saving everything up for Cycle of Suffering. Even by the band’s own lofty standards, Sylosis’s fifth (debatably sixth) full-length record is an absolute barnstormer. The album delivers an absolute avalanche of riffs, with Middleton’s distinctive roar sounding more pissed off and driven than it ever has before. Sylosis are back, baby! They’re also every bit as good as you remember, and then some.
Cycle of Suffering doesn’t simply retread old ground. For all it’s fire and fury, the album is a distinctly groovier and more restrained effort than the band have delivered in the past. Building upon some of the experiments seen on Dormant Heart, Sylosis’s latest offering is strewn with sullen, melancholic textures which underpin the otherwise rampant rage at its forefront. Where previous Sylosis records have been largely explosive in temperament, Cycle of Suffering seems to seethe and boil, threatening in its eruptive potential and brooding atmosphere where other albums would have lashed out. The difference in tone is immediately evident from album opener “Empty Prophets”, which writhes and builds only to plummet when it seems like it might finally erupt. Rather than constantly spurring the music on, Cycle of Suffering sound more like Sylosis are being drawn forth by a mighty beast, over whom they have a firm hold, but to whose every whim they remain beholden.
That isn’t to say the album is at all uncontrolled. In true Sylosis fashion, every single moment on Cycle of Suffering is perfectly executed and deployed with the band’s trademark precision. It’s a more reactionary record, however; one that’s twists and turns are dictated by its emotions rather than calculatedly going for broke. The record’s accentuated emotionality is brought to the surface on its final number, “Abandon”, which sees Middleton mournfully crooning (for a given value of crooning) over a melancholic and largely piano-driven backdrop. If Middleton has so far failed to make an impact during his time with Architects, the band’s impact on him is immediately apparent. Sylosis are nothing but true to themselves throughout the record’s duration. Nevertheless, Cycle of Suffering is very much a mood record – a rarity within the thrash genre (for moods that beyond enraged and irreverent) – and remains very much the Sylosis record of the here and now.
Cycle of Suffering also a perfect reminder of just why Sylosis were so missed and so revered. The control and drive shown by Middleton throughout the record is nothing short of masterful and the rest of the band (who now include Conjurer‘s Connor Marshal on bass) are with him every step of the way. Songs like the colossal “I Sever”, “Idle Hands” and “Apex of Disdain” prove they haven’t lost one ounce of what originally made them special in their absence, while the added textures throughout the rest of the album prove they’ve got plenty of room left to explore. Whatever the future holds for Middleton and co., the metal world is a better place for having Sylosis in it and their return is nothing short of triumphant.
Cycle of Suffering is out now on Nuclear Blast.