Now four albums in, Sylosis have consistently proved themselves one of UK metal's brightest talents, thanks to a carefully considered balance of songwriting craft and formidable technicality, not to mention sheer riff fury.
It's a potent combination that lead guitarist and frontman Josh Middleton is certainly proud of.
“I think we stand out on our own,” he says. “We do tend to appeal to guitarists because there's a lot of technical playing going on, but I don't think there's much that goes over people's heads.
“The fact that we don't down-tune and play in E standard in itself sets us apart massively from the current trend of seven- and eight-strings. I would say the heart of the band’s sound is thrash but there are a lot of progressive influences. The depth of melody amidst all of the heaviness is also a strong point for us.”
Yet despite his considerable chops, Josh is keen to emphasise he's not exactly a shred fan; his influences run deeper than that.
“I've never really been into 'shred' guitar, despite the fact that I'm known for doing a lot of sweep picking stuff and shredding. I guess the fact that I listen to a lot of music like Radiohead, Tool and Cult Of Luna – which is a lot less meathead and goes a little deeper – means that when it comes to lead playing I'm always like, 'Right, try not to make this sound cheesy.'
“So, I use conventional 'shred' playing, but I try to do things in a less obvious and cheesy way. I don't often use sweep-picking arpeggios when I'm playing a solo; I use them to try and create hypnotic patterns and outline interesting chords.”
Sylosis are now set to unleash those tasteful skills on a co-headline tour with Polish death-metallers Decapitated, a band who themselves made a major impression on Josh.
“The first time I heard them was just before their second album Nihility came out,” he recalls. “I heard the song Babylon's Pride on a magazine sampler CD and was hooked.
“I was already into some death metal at the time but they had a lot of Pantera influences in there as well. The main riff in that song grooves so much.”
And with such a killer line-up, you can bet this is going to be one all-conquering tour – especially with the promise of new Sylosis material in the offing…
“It's going to be a really heavy package, that's for sure!” confirms Josh. “We'll be playing some songs we've not played live before, and we might also have a brand-new song to play, which could be interesting!”
Before Josh departs to destroy stages across the UK, he found time to tell us the 10 albums that made the biggest mark on his playing – read on for the full lowdown…
Sylosis tour the UK with Decapitated in March – tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
2 March: Bristol Marble Factory
3 March: Birmingham Rainbow Warehouse
4 March: Glasgow Garage
5 March: Manchester Academy 3
7 March: London Electric Ballroom
8 March: Colchester Arts Centre
9 March: Plymouth The Hub
10 March: Nottingham Rescue Rooms
11 March: Brighton Concorde 2
12 March: Norwich The Waterfront
1. Metallica - And Justice For All (1988)
“That album was hugely inspirational for me. When I was about 12, the metal bands at the time were all down-tuning and playing 'one finger' riffs. My older sister's boyfriend at the time leant me this album to check out and I never gave it back.
“There were just so many awesome riffs and melodies, and it was all in standard E tuning. Blackened is probably my favourite Metallica song. It has lots of melody (especially the big reverse guitar intro), but so many types of riffs and it's so heavy.
“I remember asking my sister's boyfriend what effects pedal they were using in certain places. I'd play him a solo or something and go, 'wait for it… this bit THERE!', thinking it must have been some kind of chorus pedal, and he was like 'nah, that's guitar harmonies: they record one part then record another part over the top harmonised in major and minor 3rds.'
“So, as soon as I found out how they did that, I used to max out my four-track tape recorder and write riffs and demo layered-up harmonies. To Live Is To Die is actually one of my favourites and one of my favourite solos ever, and that's Hetfield's solo.”
2. Pantera - Far Beyond Driven (1994)
“I can't think how many times I've listened to that album. Dimebag was my biggest guitar inspiration from that point on. His solos were the most technical playing I'd properly listened to at that point. I was like 'I want to be able to play like this.'
“I've only ever really been into guitarists that do lead playing within a band context, because above all the riff is what's most important, but I always wanted to be a well-rounded player.
“There are so many awesome riffs on that album, too. Strength Beyond Strength and Use My Third Arm are probably my favourite tracks on that one.”
3. Tool - nima (1996)
“I got this album the same Christmas that I got Far Beyond Driven. Both of those albums kind of show both sides of me. On the one hand, I love super-heavy, primal-sounding metal, but on the other hand I like music that I guess would be described as more sophisticated - but I don't mean to imply the metal bands I listen to aren't sophisticated in their own way.
“I know Tool can be categorized as a metal band, but I never think of them that way; my favourite elements in Tool's music are the darker and more ambient sections.
“My favourite songs on this album are H and Eulogy. Getting this album and Far Beyond Driven really put me in a dilemma. I loved both bands so much but couldn't see a way to combine elements of both that would work in a cohesive way. I think our song What Dwells Within off Monolith, you could probably say that's a blend of Pantera meets Tool… plus a load of other stuff.”
4. Radiohead - The Bends (1995)
“It's far from one of my top 10 albums of all time, but it was the album I learned to play guitar to. It's also quite bleak and depressing, which is always a factor in our music.
“I started playing guitar in primary school when this album came out. One of the first songs I ever learned was Street Spirit. I think it's so important to learn acoustic guitar first and come at learning the guitar from a songwriting angle.
“Planet Telex is one of my favourite tracks on this album. It's quite epic. I remember seeing the Just video on TV at the time and thinking it was coolest music video I'd ever seen. I couldn't believe the ending, haha!”
5. Faith No More - Angel Dust (1992)
“It was all about the melodies on this album, for me. Their use of melody was a lot more interesting than anyone else at the time. They were hugely inspirational for me, as I love really densely layered music, and there was so much going on in this album in terms of different sounds.
“It's not my favourite song on the album, but that evil, key-changing chord progression in Malpractice is another thing that really inspired me. It was far more cinematic and atmospheric than the usual melodies you heard metal bands playing, so that inspired me to do the same.”
6. Mastodon - Crack The Skye (2009)
“This album came out between Sylosis doing our first and second albums, and made me reconnect with the idea of trying to go a little deeper with our music and not getting bogged down with just playing meathead riffs or trying to sound pristine and modern.
“This is probably in my top three albums of all time. I love prog-rock, specifically 70s prog-rock, and this album is laced with those vibes. It's so dark and atmospheric that if you listen to it in headphones you just get sucked right in.”
7. Death - Symbolic (1995)
“I got into Death right before Chuck [Schuldiner, frontman] died. I got Individual Thought Patterns first, which I loved, but when I finally got Symbolic (I could never find it in music shops back in the day), I was like, 'This album is perfect!'
“It's so heavy yet really sophisticated. It's technical without going too over the top, it's heavy without just being all meathead, and it's just a really deep album. When I heard it, I was like, 'This is the sort of music I've been wanting to make or trying to make': trying to bridge the gap between really brutal music and something that's more refined and atmospheric.”
8. Slipknot - Slipknot (1999)
“As much as I was into Metallica and Pantera, there was no denying this album. At the time it was the most intense music I'd heard.
“As much as I was already into death metal, there's a different type of heaviness on this album. Just a raw, intense and primal sound. The only other band that I listened to at that time that gave me that feeling was Burnt By The Sun.”
9. Burnt By The Sun - Soundtrack To The Personal Revolution (2002)
“I nearly put Cannibal Corpse's Bloodthirst album here, which was big for me at the time, but this Burnt By The Sun album was life-changing-ly heavy in a different way.
“For me, it's the most intense album ever. Their vocalist Mike Olender is a big influence on me. The song Dow Jones And The Temple Of Doom, where the music stops and he just screams 'AND I WATCH THIS BURN YOU ALIVE' literally makes me want to pick up whatever furniture is in the room around me and throw it at the wall.
“That song and Soundtrack To The Worst Movie Ever both build and build up until the heaviest riffs of all time come in at the end. I listened to those songs just now and it gets me all agitated, like, and twitchy. So many powerful riffs.”
10. Crowded House - Woodface (1991)
“Not the coolest addition to this list, and it was hard to pick an album for this spot. My dad is obsessed with music, and on long car journeys on holiday he would always play Beach Boys, The Beatles or stuff like Crowded House.
“Sgt. Pepper was the first album I bought for myself when I was about seven, but if I had to pick one album that was forced upon my childhood it would be Crowded House. They're not a small band by any means, but I think they're criminally underrated. Loads of people I speak to are like, 'I've never heard of them' and then you play their best of album and they know every song.
“The reason I put this here is because, aside from all the technical riffs, you need to be able to write a song. I think Neil Finn is one of the best songwriters of all time. My favourite CH song is Don't Dream It's Over, which isn't on this album, but this is the one I have the most memories of.”