By: Alex Phillips
Label: Nuclear Blast
Available: January 23
I’ve been hearing good things about Sylosis, one of the premier acts of the Nuclear Blast roster. Here’s a melodic death metal band that’s been getting a lot of attention. Wait, no, their material falls more inside the thrash genre. But that guy over there claims they pull off a new progressive metalcore style in the post-metal vein. And now some other douche is claiming that Sylosis is pure groove, with a flair for clean singing and the occasional heartfelt breakdown. This is the major irritation of reviewing, the parsing of genres and subgenres in such a way that a band will fit into a neat, descriptive box. Indeed, while Sylosis do manage to defy easy description, they also seem to be hunting for a sound they can call their own. Their forthcoming album, Dormant Heart, showcases how this blending of styles and genres works exceptionally well for individual songs, but ultimately leads the band all over the map in pursuit of a coveted signature sound—that thing that makes a few bands memorable, most others not.
Stand Sylosis in a metal lineup with the likes of DevilDriver and Trivium, and I would not be able to place them. They do have melody. They do have pummeling heaviness. A faint echo of the epic mode. On Dormant Heart it’s the thrashier moments that command the most attention. “Overthrown” and “Indoctrinated” crack open the earth and expose the thrash roots pulsing beneath the thin metalcore topsoil. On most songs—“Harm” is a good example—Josh Middleton’s guitar leads turn what would be otherwise boring breakdowns into passages that grab at your ears, snatch for your attention glands.
But for the most part, the music doesn’t stick. It just keeps missing the mark. “Quiescent” is the last and longest track, a sort-of ballad of somber mood and stifled temper that reaches for a dreamy, perhaps even memorable ending, but ends sounding, well, pouty. I’m not suggesting that the song—any of them—are flawed, unpolished, or incomplete. Every song delivers on the heaviness, but it’s infected with a strain of something on an emotional, almost gentle, undercurrent. It’s as if the emotions of some other creature are trapped in the musical body and need to be drained, vivisected, or exorcised.
Dormant Heart isn’t a bad album, but it doesn’t linger in my memory like it wants to. It feels more like a placeholder for something better, something more bestial or savage and definitely more cunning, a beast of an album which has yet to come.