BEAUTY IN DARKNESS
British metallers ‘Sylosis’ have steadily gained in popularity, firmly establishing themselves within the metal community over the past ten years. Their latest release, ‘Dormant Heart’, quickly followed the success of its predecessors; ‘Edge of The Earth’ and ‘Monolith’, confirming the band’s dedication to good quality music and their passion for raw, gritty, dark thrash metal. Heavy Metal Artwork sat down with the founder, lead guitarist, and vocalist Josh Middleton during their 2016 UK tour with Decapitated, to find out a bit more about their music, inspiration, and the captivating artwork.
HMA: Sylosis’ last two records, ‘Dormant Heart’ and ‘Monolith’, have a distinctive Art Nouveau style. What made you decide to take this direction?
Josh Middleton: We are a heavy metal band but we’re not really into the skulls and snakes. Well, we do have snakes on the T-shirt, but not the typical metal artwork where it’s a bit cliché. We’d like to think that there’s more of an element of sophistication to our music in places. It’s nice to contrast heavy music with something really nice to look at. It’s still quite dark, but more classy.
HMA: Do you feel that the artwork is a good representation for your music and vice-versa? Do they complement each other?
JM: Yes, I think so. People, if they just see the cover, may not even know its metal. But I still think it’s a good representation that shows we’re hoping more than just ‘meathead metal’.
HMA: Your lyrics don’t necessarily talk about stereotypical metal subjects; especially the last single, ‘Different Masks on the Same Face’.
JM: I don’t want people to think I’m crazy, but I watch a lot of David Icke interviews [author]. He’s got a lot of weird conspiracy ideas. One of them is that the world is essentially run by this bloodline of lizards. I find his stuff just interesting. I don’t necessarily believe everything he says, but the name, “Different Masks on the Same Face” is a quote that he says in one lecture. Basically, he was talking about how it has more to do with the US, but no matter who you vote for it’s still going to be the corporations and the big businesses that really have a say and can control so much of what happens in the world. No matter which president or prime minister you have, it’s still going to be fronting the same thing. So that’s what the title refers to. It’s an interest of mine as opposed to something I firmly believe.
HMA: In a lot of the lyrics, and also in this particular song, there’s a reference to ‘They’. Who are ‘They’?
JM: I don’t know; it depends on the album or song. It’s not always the same thing. In ‘Different Masks’ it would be the global elite – big banks, big business – that really have a stranglehold on how politics are run. Money can control so much of what happens and the things that go on in the world just for profit, without any consideration for people or the climate – it’s crazy. So in that respect, that’s who ‘They’ are.
HMA: Going back to the covers and the way you guys make use of the Art Nouveau style – who looks after your artwork?
JM: I’m probably too involved. It undoubtedly annoys the people that we work with because I do a lot of painting myself and my mother’s an art teacher. I’ve grown up with art all around the house and been to all kinds of art galleries all over the place, all over Europe. When I was a kid I was dragged around. So I have a huge interest in art but I’m always so busy when we’re doing the album that it’s better to get someone else to do the artwork. I have a very strong idea in my head of what I want, so that can be very annoying to another artist when they have to stick to rigid guidelines. There’s a guy, Dan Goldsworthy, who did ‘Monolith’ and the album before, and a guy that goes by the name of ‘Bonfire’.
HMA: I’m sure there’s a story. I don’t think all those elements are there by accident.
JM: Yes. I’m wary though because people might think I’m preaching. There’s this woman, sacrificing a sheep, which reflects some of the themes on ‘Dormant Heart’ about people not really caring about anything; or thinking that they have to stick to certain traditions just because that’s the way the world is, without realising you can do things differently – no matter what that might be. There’s this ominous figure in the background. It’s supposed to be implied that they’re forcing this [sacrifice] to happen. It’s not a huge story, but that’s just the elements that come to mind.
HMA: You said you have an interest and background in art, but what else inspires you? Perhaps other forms of music, or things that contribute to your music.
JM: I like a lot of ’70s prog-rock, specifically Rush, Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Yes. I think ‘Dormant Heart’ especially has a very seventies vibe to the artwork; maybe not the music. It creeps in though. The last track on the album is quite prog and seventies influenced. I just love the way a lot of the album’s looked. A lot of bands then, especially prog bands, used Art Nouveau stylings as well. I’m also a huge fan of Baroness and John Dyer Baizley’s work. I’m trying to slightly move away from that because I think he does that so well, and that is so well-suited to Baroness, that we probably need to branch off and do our own thing from here on.
As much as I like the heaviness in certain old school thrash bands, I like the riffs and the music, but I just think talking about fantasy stuff doesn’t interest me. It’s been done so much that I’d rather listen to someone that has something to say, especially bands like Gojira and Baroness. Gojira, especially, is really heavy, but there’s nothing meathead about their music; it’s still intelligent.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2016 © Heavy Metal Artwork. All rights reserved.