For the last couple of months I've been reading great things about the Shredding From Reading. Sylosis have been hard at work producing their second album to follow Conclusion Of An Age, their critically acclaimed debut. Can Edge Of The Earth wow like the first, or will it suffer second album syndrome and languish unplayed beside its illustrious predecessor?
Well, I'll set one thing straight from the off; this is no half-hearted second attempt. It doesn't tread the same ground, it doesn't try too hard, and it doesn't feel like the band peaked too soon. They have resisted the temptation to commercialise to gain a wider fan base. In fact, they've gone the opposite direction and produced something progressive and spectacular.
There has been one lineup change since Conclusion Of An Age; a change in lead vocalist. This time, lead guitarist Josh Middleton has stepped up to the plate to take over. This he does with gusto, providing a fantastic vocal range, from deep, resonating clean vocals through to piercing shrieks and of course powerful, guttural growls. The power and control of the vocals alone make this album stand out, with melody and emotion evident in the depth of the growls that other vocalists struggle to find.
Rather than a collection of distinct songs, the album is more conceptual, each song tied into a narrative that binds the album together into a coherent whole. The song writing is strong and purposeful, eschewing the verse/chorus/verse structure in favour of a more poetic lyrical style.
The album's themes of isolation, confusion and the passage of time are given structure by the album being split into three distinct sections. These are punctuated by instrumental pieces the give the narrative room to breathe and effectively separate the key parts of the story; death, resurrection and despair.
Procession kicks off proceedings in style; loud, dense and at a galloping pace. A funereal dirge, of sorts, but carrying in anger within. Feeding into Sands Of Time, a death is described as experienced by the dying. The anger, the fear and the revelation of what is to come hurtle past at a breakneck speed.
If the entire album went at this pace, it would be exhausting to listen to. At over 72 minutes long, it would be an assault on the mind to try and keep up. The first break comes with the magnificent two part epic, Empyreal. The first half is a more melodic song, leading into a purely intstrumental second half that could possibly be described as "ambient death".
But that peace doesn't last long. No sooner has our unwitting hero come to terms with his demise, but a demonic force comes to him in A Serpent's Tongue. Again, more melodic, but fundamentally a heavy thrash track with blood curdling vocals and some killer riffs. Awakening and Kingdom Of Solitude tell of resurrection and eternal imprisonment; isolation from all in a personal hell.
The second instrumental track, Where The Sky Ends, provides the next respite from the onslaught of riffs and booming drums. With an almost progressive death feel, it sets the mood for the rest of the album. An altogether more sombre affair, although only relative to that which preceeded it.
The remaining portion of the album deals with remorse, despair, ultimately a second death. A final return to the Earth. Distinctly more progressive, there are some epic songs making up an emotionally charged finale. In fact, the shortest of these is Eclipsed at a mere 4:46, the rest being between 5 and 8 minutes each. Dystopia tells of a near future, when disaster, tragedy and rampant greed have torn the world apart. This is followed by Apparitions, one of the best songs on the album. A soaring melding of thrash and melodic death, with clean and growled vocals playing off each other over a crashing of cymbals and a thundering of guitars.
Altered States Of Consiousness and Beyond The Resurrected speak of loneliness and remorse. The second death and final end of our tortured protagonist. Pulled into the depths of the Earth, the light of the world finally blotted out by the pain and evil of the world and himself. Eclipsed gives a glimpse of the darkening of his eyes, the beginning of the final sleep, before ending the album with the title track. Another epic progressive thrash masterpiece, From The Edge Of The Earth is a superb ending and an amazingly detailed, textured track.
Despite some initial misgivings at incredible length of this album, it is worth it. The breaking down of the sections makes it accessible and possible to listen to without getting fatigued by the onslaught on the senses a pure heavy thrash record would undoubtedly provide. There is no filler; each song has its place and is well constructed to fit in that place. Finding the time to sit and listen to this album is well worth the investment. A flawless production, and a definite shoo-in for record of the year.