It’s Sunday night and if my Twitter timeline is anything to go by, the entire world is sitting in front of The X Factor. My options appear to be 1) I could stay in and watch the Simon Cowell franchise machine tear my soul apart, 2) turn off the TV but remain at home like a good husband, helping Mrs C with our newborn daughter, or 3) selfishly fuck off out by myself for an evening of heavy metal in nearby Reading.
I arrive in good time at the Sub89 club, a nice intimate low-ceilinged venue with good views of the stage throughout, but serving Guinness at a fairly pricey £3.70. First up are Dyscarnate, a perfectly acceptable, if slightly generic, death metal threesome, growly vocals shared between both guitarist and bassist. From what I see of them they are the perfect support band; good, but not so good as to worry the headliners. As a result they get a positive reception from those who have arrived early. Now who’s up next?
“Hi, we’re Chimp Spanner and we’re going to play some instrumental prog”.
Oh for the love of God, are you kidding me?, was my initial reaction, a feeling of genuine irritation like being woken by a crying baby at three in the morning whilst in the middle of a dream involving Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and a tub of Lurpak Spreadable. I’m wearing my Bolt Thrower t-shirt, do I look like someone who’s come out to listen to some Prog Rock? But actually, stupid name aside, the Spanner were pretty good and I warmed to them as their set went on thanks to their impressive musicianship and some industrial Meshuggah-style riffery. The drummer could do with a slap though, his partiality to twirling his drumsticks at every given opportunity needs to be knocked out of him.
But tonight is all about local Reading boys Sylosis, the gig billed as the launch party for their new album, Monolith. “Sorry if we sound a bit rusty but we haven’t played with each other for over two months” says frontman Josh Middleton, emphasising the obvious innuendo to the tittering delight of a rather young audience. Christ, bring back Chimp Spanner.
As it goes there is thankfully little or no rust on display (nor any further double entendres). Sylosis are slick, tight, and play a solid brand of thrash metal which you don’t get to hear too often these days. When I say ‘thrash’ let’s be clear, they’re not going to be knocking the likes of Slayer off their mantle, but given their penchant for speedy but tuneful guitars and high-tempo double bass drumming they certainly fill a Megadeth-shaped hole in this scene for me, especially as the last couple of Dave Mustaine’s albums have been so abjectly disappointing.
I can dismiss a band within seconds if I don’t think the lead singer is up to scratch but Josh Middleton’s raspy vocals work perfectly for this genre. New tracks such as A Dying Vine and Born Anew create sizeable circle pits but closing track Empyreal is the obvious highlight. Criticisms? Each song is about six minutes long and can sometimes feel like they outstay their welcome, and there are times when it feels the band unnecessarily crowbar in a self-indulgent guitar solo when you wish they’d just stick with solid riffs and aggression. But maybe that’s just me being a grumpy old man.
Commendably, Sylosis are about set off to North America having been asked to support Lamb Of God on tour throughout November, a ringing endorsement if ever they needed one. And on the subject of endorsements I must remember to phone Lurpak with my idea for their next advert….
Posted: Tue 9 October 2012