Are you angry? You should be. The world is full of injustice, violence and corruption. Meanwhile, heavy music has long been disposed to indicating an alternate route to the unthinking path of the conformist, the conservative, the sheep, and yet one of the most frustrating aspects of metal in the 21st century is the absence of any new bands with a worthwhile axe to grind. From lazy tolerance of sexism and homophobia through to the banality of online discourse, modern metal can seem a self-absorbed and vacuous thing at times.
But sometimes rebellion, revolution and revelation come from the unlikeliest of sources. A reliable and straightforward – one might even say workmanlike – force for thrash-inspired good in the UK metal scene for the last few years, Sylosis might not strike you as subversive, but the band’s new album, Dormant Heart, is precisely that, both in terms of its musical values and in frontman Josh Middleton’s thematic drive.
A brutal but subtly expressed call-to-arms that dares metalheads to give a shit and view the world with a more critical eye, it paints its chief protagonist as a man determined to use his disillusionment with the world as the first step on the road to making a difference./o:p
“I hate to say it, but it all began when I became a vegan,” Josh states, stopping just short of apologising for even mentioning his dietary choices. “I don’t want to fall into the trap of being a stereotypical preachy person. People assume vegans are self-righteous and up their own arses, but really it’s more about trying to be more compassionate and more aware. It’s made me more aware of environmental issues and more aware of evil corporations that are destroying people’s livelihoods and ruining their lives. You can’t be too outspoken about some of these things in America because of the interests of big corporations, but there’s so much corruption./o:p
“People are just going through life not wanting to change because ‘it’s always been done this way’ or ‘it’s tradition’ or whatever,” he continues. “The lyrics on Dormant Heart are about everyday conflicts and particularly fear of change. Any sort of change, even if it sounds positive… people are afraid of that. I can’t act like I’m some know-it-all or some political genius, but there’s a lot to be confused and angry about.”/o:p
Perhaps the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of any artist wishing to comment on the state of the world is that a noisy majority of people simply don’t want to be confronted with awkward truths or difficult questions. And while Josh is clearly (and thankfully) not taking some kind of bombastic, scattershot Russell Brand-style stand against the powers-that-be, the mere fact that new songs like Servitude, Victims And Pawns and Quiescent dare to dig deeper into humanity’s vexed evolution than metal’s perennial tropes speaks volumes about how Sylosis stand apart from the their peers.
“Russell Brand’s obviously a prominent character in that world at the moment and I love watching [his YouTube series] The Trews – he has some really good debates on there and some intelligent arguments to make,” Josh notes. “At the same time I don’t agree with everything he’s said. Telling people not to vote is bullshit, but at least he’s doing something and making people think. People are always very quick to crucify anyone if they speak out but don’t have all the answers. This album is really about awareness and consciousness generally, thinking about everyday life and things that we just accept because that’s how things are.”
Beyond the mild surprise that Sylosis have sharpened up their lyrical attack, it is the determination that has seen the band return to action after being involved in a van crash while on tour in September 2013 that makes Dormant Heart such an admirable piece of work. All four members of the band were hospitalised and, as Josh suggests, drummer Rob’s subsequent departure stemmed from a feeling that Sylosis’s gruelling touring activities necessitate the sacrificing of the band’s personal safety. Newly rejuvenated by the recruitment of Bleed From Within’s Ali Richardson, Josh and his comrades are a band reborn.
“I guess we are putting ourselves in harm’s way at times. Being on the road that much, you’re bound to run into trouble at some point,” Josh muses. “The song Victims And Pawns, it asks how many times you can return to your feet. The rewards for doing this are great and playing the shows is awesome, but the rest of the time we’re cooped up in a van. We don’t have much to show for it financially, but I can’t imagine doing anything else!”
Sylosis are about to release an album that cleverly marries the fiery impetus of classic thrash to a bold, widescreen vision that is driven by the kind of aggression that modern metal sorely needs right now. Time to wake up, folks: the metal rebellion starts here.
“I’m obsessed with thrash and that punk mindset that it had in the old days,” Josh concludes. “It seemed to be going against the grain, and metal doesn’t seem so against the grain now. So we’re rebelling, even if it’s just musically. For instance, I couldn’t give a shit if eight-string guitars are popular… I fucking hate them! I don’t want to downtune. I just want to hear some nasty music that makes me want to throw a chair across the room.”
DORMANT HEART IS RELEASED ON JANUARY 12 VIA NUCLEAR BLAST/o:p