Not the improvement I was hoping for.
When a band is constantly compared to a bigger group with a larger fanbase, it can either be immeasurably irritating or actually flattering to the members of said band. It either tells you that you’re doing something right... or that you might need to change up your sound entirely so as to not be looked at as the latest in a line of copy-cats. In Sylar’s case, I cannot imagine that the five members mind their near-constant comparison to the behemoths that were Linkin Park’s first two albums. (I'm well aware I break this rule of comparison above too, by the way). Even fifteen years later, those two albums - 'Hybrid Theory' and 'Meteora', respectively - are still seen as classic nu-metal and rock albums; both clearly a massive influence upon the music that Sylar writes nowadays. So what happens when you throw together these influencers, down-tuned guitars, clean-sung melodies, some rapped verses, and the occasional harsh vocal line? Well, you get a confusing album that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. You get 'Seasons'.
'Seasons' has little to no harsh or screamed vocals featured on it, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Being "heavy" or having a vocalist screaming doesn't automatically mean that something is great or will be good. However, I believe that more frequent screamed sections would've worked better in this album's favour. The thing that makes 'Seasons' different from their past records is that there are places that sound like a perfect fit for Jayden Panesso's harsher scream style. However, they are instead replaced by rapping or the odd spoken-word part. This is especially apparent in songs like 'SHOOK!' and 'Same Dance', which both could've greatly benefited from added intensity brought on by Jayden's screams. After all, he's really good at that style and he can create some really well-done vocal patterns too, so it seems rather weird for his strong-suit element to be under-used here. Especially on that latter song, 'Same Dance', what with it instrumentally being arguably the heaviest song on this new record by far. Screaming wouldn't have gone amiss!
However, this is not to say that Sylar's formula doesn't work all the time; that there are no hits at all. In fact, there some solid parts that cannot be overlooked! The bouncy and energetic opener title track is actually one of the album's best moments; what with its incredibly catchy hooks and well-executed verses. This first-off-the-rank track also features the band's prominent hip-hop inspirations. The very kind that Sylar has been known for, and it all works very well in this one example.
[caption id="attachment_1104256" align="aligncenter" width="760"] Sylar, 2018. Hey, if all you love is nu-metal and metalcore, you'll probably love this new record![/caption]
There are quite a few highlights on this album that do indeed shine bright, despite the lower points of 'Seasons'. For example, 'Giving Up' and 'sickminded' both feature some of the most heartfelt lyrics this band has ever written, the former touching on a place of painful stagnancy which many of us experience in our own lives. ("So I go through the motions/Who knows what the future holds, so I can't avoid it/Wondering if I made the right choices/If I'm better off blocking out the noises"). On top of this, the latter tune would actually be my personal favourite song of Sylar's, both musically and lyrically. 'sickminded' stands out so much because of its pure catchiness and the excellent musicianship dolled out. Unlike much of the other songs here, this one actually feels cohesive; like all of the song's parts fit exactly where they are supposed to go. As a result, it's hooked me in incredibly well!
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The track 'No Way' which was previously released as a single, is a beautiful combination of melody and punchy riffs; making a solid standout out of all the singles released so far. The interlude, 'Winter', marks a real highlight as well, combining hip-hop beats with beautiful melodies and some well-thought-out lyricism. Album closer 'Doubt Me' has a more subtle catchiness to it, being a slow burner tune that's bound to be the key "sing-along" part of any future Sylar live set. However, even in these tracks, those that easily make up the better portions of the records, there are still ideas and passages sprinkled throughout 'Seasons' that just left me wondering: "How did this make it onto the final version of the album?” As the exponential growth the band has made from 'To Whom It May Concern' (2014) over to 'Help!' (2016), and now to this new record just hasn't been followed through on. And it's really noticeable.
'Seasons' is an inconsistent, perhaps even confusing record. It at times gripping your interest right to the point of involuntary headbanging. air-drumming and toe-tapping. Yet at other times, it leaves you bored and wanting to skip right onto the next track. The good parts are great, yet equally, the boring parts really do drag-on, with some great opportunities sadly missed by the band. Sylar truly have something to their modern nu-metal sound, which has been evident for quite some time and hence why they've gained the success they have. However, this new album just left me wishing for improvements that sadly never came to fruition.
All Or Nothing
Wait For You
'Seasons' is out Friday, October 5th via Hopeless Records.