As modern metal flails around in a cynical mess of its own making, the return of SYLOSIS is something to be cheered from rooftops. A steady and distinctive presence in the UK metal scene since the turn of the century, Josh Middleton's idiosyncratic but always brutal take on the original thrash blueprint was always worth more than the band's comparatively low international status suggested. From 2008 debut "Conclusion of an Age" onwards, SYLOSIS provided a genuinely exhilarating and generation-spanning alternative to metalcore's diminishing returns. A slight tendency to make excessively long albums aside, Middleton has steered the ship with great finesse and quiet determination, culminating in 2015's monstrous "Dormant Heart" — an album that should be have been a much bigger deal than it turned out be. When the band abruptly went on hiatus, not long after touring that record, few fans could blame Middleton for pursuing a clean slate elsewhere. Quite how many people were thrilled that he ended up joining ARCHITECTS is open to debate, but the knowledge of that unexpected team-up simply adds another layer of surprise to the sheer ferocity and uncompromising artistry that fuels "Cycle of Suffering".
It's clear that an extended hiatus was just what Middleton needed to rejuvenate the SYLOSIS sound. "I Sever" was a very canny and telling preview single: here, it kicks things off perfectly; that barrage of dissonant crunch, precision riffing and epic, angsty melodies is immediately recognizable as the band's finest moment to date. Although still firmly rooted in thrash, there is a deft blurring of boundaries between subgenres going on here, albeit only subgenres that suit SYLOSIS. As a result, this is both the most diverse and the most accessible record the band have made. And yes, as you might expect and hope, it's also the heaviest by some margin, with plenty of archetypal tooth-rattling bass present in the mix and dense, flesh-flaying guitar tones. Middleton's voice will still strip the paint from your walls, too. What, you may well ask, is not to like?
But in the end, whether or not SYLOSIS reap their just rewards this time around seems to depend entirely on how many people get to hear this thing. These are simply great modern metal songs, born of thrash but informed by everything from '90s groove metal to futuristic tech-death: a singular sound, given a well-timed upgrade and applied to some of the biggest and best songs the Brits have ever recorded. At their most incisive, on "I Sever", the grim, slamming "Calcified" and the majestic, slow-burning denouement "Abandon", SYLOSIS sound like genuine world beaters. They're back and they're blazing.