SYLOSIS - CONCLUSION OF AN AGE - NUCLEAR BLAST
InterviewsWho or what is SYLOSIS? What does the name mean? How did the band sign to Nuclear Blast Records and a hell of a lot more are discussed when guitarist Josh Middleton calls into Metallian Towers to speak with Ali “The Metallian” - 22.01.2009
METALLIAN: Josh, let us start with the obvious criticism. Why does the band have those clean vocals?
JOSH: We found we like melodic music as much as heavy music. We all like Soilwork, Opeth, Symphony X so yes it is something we want to do for ourselves and I think we spent as much time writing the clean, melodic part as we did the heavy stuff. We put a lot of effort into it because we enjoyed doing it. I don’t know if we will keep doing as much melodic stuff in the future, but it is definitely something we wanted to try.
METALLIAN: I hear the melody and I hear the thrash but I am asking myself, “why are these vocals here?” Maybe that’s why Nuclear Blast is mentioning the phrase “forward looking” in your biography. I am assuming they wrote that.
JOSH: Yeah they did.
METALLIAN: So is that what they are referring to?
JOSH: I guess the foundations of our influences and our sound is in the Bay Area thrash or bands like Death, but I think the whole 'forward looking' thing is because include different elements like progressive, really heavy, epic instrumental and bands like Cult Of Luna. We don’t try to sound like our album was recorded in '80s. We have a modern production and everything. I guess it kind of is like a new approach. We don’t claim to be the most original band ever and we try to please ourselves.
METALLIAN: And are you pleased?
JOSH: Yeah we are really happy. When we left the studio we were kind of worried. We thought we had pushed ourselves really hard in terms of the writing. We were proud of it and we felt we don’t know how are we going to top this. We don’t think it’s the best album but definitely it pushed our limits to the peak. It took a while to have a break from writing and then start writing new stuff that we realized that we could definitely progress. Actually, I have been demoing new songs all day and I am getting excited over them but we are still pleased with the first album.
METALLIAN: Do you or any of the bands read any of the mainstream magazines or anything like that?
JOSH: We like reading Terrorizer magazine, Metal Hammer now and then; they cover a lot of good music and underground stuff as well as more obvious mainstream. Compared to like ten years ago they seem to be into metal now which is quite cool, but no we don’t pay too much attention. We only buy magazines if we are in them! We go to the Internet to check out the news, but that’s about it.
METALLIAN: Do you or anyone in the band watch MTV?
JOSH: No, not really. I don’t even have Sky or anything. I can’t even watch it. I guess that’s a good thing.
METALLIAN: What do you think of your reviews? The word didn’t come up in my review, but I have seen write-ups putting your name in the same sentence as the word 'metalcore.'
JOSH: We are definitely not into metalcore. It is something we want to stay away from. It is kind of annoying because we don’t have breakdowns and we don’t have hardcore lyrics. To me metalcore means metal with hardcore and since we don’t have any hardcore it is kind of annoying, but I can see why people would say that and I think on the next album we are gong to make an effort to move even further away from anything sounding like that.
METALLIAN: How is it that you can see why people would perceive metalcore in your music?
JOSH: I guess like you said we got singing stuff which a lot of metalcore bands do. It just happens that we are not inspired... but we are into bands like Soilwork and stuff. We are inspired by European band like Soilwork, At The Gates and In Flames and sometimes unfortunately that kind of guitar playing and those riffs get associated with metalcore these days. Some bands you can see fine lines in between them. We are not against metalcore. We don’t have a problem with it, but it is just not something to be associated with. It is not the reason that we want to stay away from it but jut naturally we want to make sure we progress.
METALLIAN: I think Nuclear Blast is predominantly signing bands which have previous albums, have toured, have sold albums and then they pick them or plucked them from other labels, yet they picked you. How did your association come about? How did you find them? How did they find you?
JOSH: In 2006 and then a year later we recorded two demos that we sent out to big labels like Nuclear Blast, but as you said most big labels don’t seem to want to pick a band that hasn’t done much so we ended up releasing those demos as EPs in the UK on an independent label that we didn’t actually sign with. It was just a licensing deal. So we recorded a demo in 2006 and we just released it and I think it was a good plan, we wanted to release a couple of EPs, build the name up so we could get some press, start touring, but we could also save doing our first album and make it a big deal on a major label and make sure it comes out worldwide. In late 2007, in November, we were on a headline tour in the UK and just randomly got an email from NB saying they had heard our myspace page and wanted to sign us and I think it was just a month later that we signed with them.
METALLIAN: Someone from NB was visiting myspace pages?
JOSH: I don’t understand it. I guess someone might have just stumbled across our page and then forwarded it to the A&R guy at Nuclear Blast Records in Germany maybe.
METALLIAN: You need to find out who that was!
JOSH: Yeah, we do actually.
METALLIAN: This label you referred to, In At The Deep End Records, what sort of a label are they? What sort of a profile do they have?
JOSH: They are independent. It’s just one guy, pretty much just UK distribution, but bands they work with they put an effort into. They have the Suicide Silence EP in the UK, a band called Architects and also a punky hardcorey band called Gallows also did their first album on there as well. They are kind of seen as a stepping stone label.
METALLIAN: Are you one of the founders of SYLOSIS?
JOSH: Yes, the founding member.
METALLIAN: You have released two demos and you have your full-length, but one also cannot help but notice you have had quite a few former members.
JOSH: It is always hard to find people you can play this kind of music with. We want to play as we do live and we strive to find the best musicians. Sometimes you find a good player and sometimes you find people you can’t get on with. It is limited when you are kind of a perfectionist, but yes it is just unfortunate and bad luck. As well, when we first started we were kids. We were like 15 back in 2001 so the first few years we didn’t do much as a band. Most 15-year old kids aren’t going to be the best musicians and apart from..., without sounding arrogant, I played guitar a lot and I think I excelled quite early on and it is kind of frustrating not being around players that were not at the same level.
METALLIAN: Do you play the solos on the album?
JOSH: Yes, all the guitars actually on the album!
METALLIAN: All of them?
JOSH: Yeah, we got a new guitarist half way through recording the album.
METALLIAN: Alex Bailey?
JOSH: Yes, that’s the one.
METALLIAN: He didn’t record anything on the album.
JOSH: We finished recording just before he joined, we recorded the album as a four-piece.
METALLIAN: Everyone else that’s listed on the album was recording on the album?
METALLIAN: Was Alex a local friend or was he in any bands?
JOSH: He is our drummer’s best friend since like they were kids. They went to school together. He was in another band called Viatrophy from Reading. We have known him for years and it was a really easy transition.
METALLIAN: Were you personally in any other bands?
JOSH: Sylosis was my first band, but I played in Viatrophy for a couple of months just to help out as a second guitarist for a while but when I was in the band they had a different guitarist than Bailey.
METALLIAN: What about your band’s name?
JOSH: It’s a let down answer. It is a word we found in the dictionary that we changed the spelling of and no one really knows what the meaning is, which is kind of good because we want to keep it a secret. It is a lame kind of a name; it doesn’t mean anything. We wanted something that sounded gruesome at the time because we were listening to Cannibal Corpse. It’s a secret because the name is just so terrible.
METALLIAN: If I go and look under 'psy' is that the change that was made?
JOSH: I don’t think it was 'y' but it is something close to that. I think we changed a letter or two here and there.
METALLIAN: Josh, going back to the label issue, you have signed to Nuclear Blast and I am going to presume it is a long term deal.
JOSH: Yes, it is a long deal.
METALLIAN: With so many bands out there, what is going to set you apart or what is going to make you go all the way?
JOSH: I think what Nuclear Blast saw in us and what we would like them to help us achieve is to draw more attention to the UK again for heavy music because we have been lacking in output for a few years now. You know, we can’t really compete with the US or Continental Europe. I think we just stick to hard work and do a lot of touring. We have got a tour coming up for a month which is with The Black Dahlia Murder, Cephalic Carnage and Psycroptic all around Europe. I think when we get back we are hopefully flying out to the states so I think just touring a lot and working hard is the way to go. I think what sets us apart maybe is our influences. Many bands are doing the thrash revival thing at the moment and it is kind of cool and kind of unfortunate because it might look like we are just another band following a trend, but I think we stick out enough. I think we incorporate enough different elements to be a bit more unique and break away slightly.
METALLIAN: Is the US tour confirmed?
JOSH: No, not yet so I don’t want to jinx it
METALLIAN: Why is it that every band says that? Is every metal band superstitious?
JOSH: No, I guess if I told you we were doing this and it didn’t happen then it probably would be a bit of a let-down or people might think we made it up.
METALLIAN: Like if you tell me that you are slated to tour with Slayer and it doesn’t happen then people would think, 'oh he made it up' or if you said you are going to tour with a reformed Led Zeppelin...
JOSH: (laughs) We just want to cover our backs maybe.
METALLIAN: What do you think or know about Canada?
JOSH: Bailey and I are actually huge Devin Townsend fans, both SYL and his solo stuff. We have toured before with Cryptopsy as well a couple of years ago. Yeah, I think we want to get there just as much as want to go to the USA.
METALLIAN: So you toured with Cryptopsy?
JOSH: Yeah, it was in the UK, like a two-week tour in 2006.
METALLIAN: On a quick tangent, since the name came up, you know all about the controversy and the chatter. What do you think of the latest Cryptopsy album?
JOSH: I haven’t actually heard all of it. I think it was really surprising to hear some clean singing, which I am sure you weren’t a huge fan of! It was also surprising to see some hair cuts. It was a bit different. I have heard like a couple of tracks and one of them sounds like Cryptopsy and one sounds completely different.
METALLIAN: I want to touch on a song on your album, namely Withered, that is my favourite. Given the screams and the progression of the riffs and the speed it comes across as action-packed. What do you think of that one as I guess you didn’t rate it too highly because it is not starting or ending the album?
JOSH: We were actually planning on maybe using it as a bonus track when we were in the studio. We had a couple of extra songs we recorded because we wanted to see which came out the best and Japan always asks for bonus track so we had to. I think. I think it wasn’t as strong as some of the other songs for a while even though we still felt it was a strong song because we actually had at least 20 songs to choose from before we began recording. We picked our best and we are still just as proud of it. That song turned out better on the recording. I think it is kind of a different pace to a lot of the songs even though it still got fast stuff it kind of grooves a little more and is a bit more pulled back speed-wise. So it was kind of good to break up the album with that song. I think it stands out being quite different. It is a lot more like groove-orientated.
METALLIAN: What can you tell Metallian’s readers about Rob’s drumming?
JOSH: He is a great drummer. I don’t think he listens to as much as the thrash stuff that I do and I do the majority of the writing. I listen to a lot of stuff like Forbidden, Heathen and old-school stuff and he listens to SYL or Gojira and he is into really interesting drumming. He is a great drummer. He is really capable and I think he has a good balance of holding back and playing solid beats and then sometimes using some finesse and adding like an extra dynamic to the songs. I think he has got it covered. We are all happy with the drumming. It exactly fits the riffs I write - perfectly.
METALLIAN: You mentioned you are demoing. How are the new songs progressing and what are the new ones like?
JOSH: Basically, we entered the studio to record Conclusion Of An Age in March of last year and we didn’t finish till July, but the recording process was broken up by a few tours in the middle so it was kind of z stretched over a long period of time. We wanted to get straight back to writing as soon we had a good enough break to get a fresh perspective. We always want to be ahead of ourselves. My music always takes long to write or at least to structure properly. We never want to rush. We don’t want the label to ever turn around and say you have got three months to write an album and you can record it. That is just not enough time so we like to stay ahead and keep writing as much as we can so we don’t have to choose from some half-assed rushed music.
How is it sounding? It is heavier definitely. That is not something we are going to lie about. We definitely want a heavier sound. After playing all these song on the Conclusion Of An Age album we know what works best live and what we enjoy playing live. I think it is slightly more technical, not deliberately. Hopefully more epic, but probably not as melodic as the last one. I have been listening to a lot of old-school early death metal, more thrashy Florida stuff like early Malevolent Creation, more kind of intense riffing will be there.
METALLIAN: It’s been said online that you are an environmental or environmentally conscious ban. Is that the case?
JOSH: No, not really. The album title refers to the end of human existence and nature reclaiming the earth and wiping us out, but we aren’t activist. We are not preaching. It’s just an observation, a cool topic like climate change and global warming affecting everyone now which was fitting for the times and also was an interesting subject. We don’t really look into it too much.
METALLIAN: Is that a theme running through the album?
JOSH: Yeah it is. It is definitely something we are interested in. It scares people in a way when you find out some of the facts. It’s a bit of an interest, but nothing more really. We are probably just as guilty as everybody else in leaving our lights on!
METALLIAN: What is it like living in Reading where you hail from?
JOSH: It’s cool. I don’t have many friends that aren’t in bands. There is such a good music scene here. There are a close group of people, all friends. There are three quite well-established, at least in the UK, bands, namely us, Viatrophy and Exit Ten who are really melodic like Perfect Circle kind of metal. It is cool. Reading is a good sized town and of course we got the Reading Festival, which is cool. I prefer it to the city, going to London is like half an hour, not too much so it is a good balance.
METALLIAN: There is actually a Reading scene or does everyone just take the train to London?
JOSH: No, there is a good Reading scene. It’s a fairly big town, by UK standards any way. Most of the time most of the bands travelling to London come through Reading as well so it is a good scene.
The band, which is completed by singer Jamie, second guitarist Bailey, bassist Carl Parnell and drummer Robert have a webpage on myspace. Visit http://www.myspace.com/sylosis for information.
If you enjoyed this, read Entombed