Syk Earthflesh

Syk - eartHFlesh


Confuse your readers! Or make at least one or two of them scratch their heads for a second. That’s good enough for me. Not long ago Veil of Sound was hosting the record premiere of Vorare & Earthflesh. I only noticed that after I had just finally ordered the new album of Syk. And as far as I know there’s no connection other than coincidence between the Harsh Noise artist Earthflesh and this album of the same name. But I took it as a cosmic sign to write this review anyway.

I’ve actually already contemplated recommending the Italians’ previous work Pyramiden here back in in 2022, but instead I focused on their singer Dalila Kayros’ excellent Electro-Avantgarde solo album Animami. So here’s my next chance. Meanwhile however things have changed, since Kayros, whose unique eccentric voice was very much the icing on the cake, has left the band to fully concentrate on her own musical journey. And even though this was a split on friendly terms, this line-up change must have felt pretty seismic, maybe even conjuring the question whether it made sense to continue with the band at all.

Luckily Syk’s choice was to begin a new chapter with vocal duty transferred to guitarist Stefano Ferrian. So instead of trying the almost impossible task to look for a preferably female singer with a style at least related to Kayros’ expression the band fully commits to growling now. And while I understood them more as an Experimental Djent Prog Metal band before, I’d now confidently label ninety percent of eartHFlesh as Death Metal. I’m actually not completely sure what’s the chicken and what’s the egg here - did they alter the course of the music to adjust to the growls or is the choice of vocals just such a defining element in Metal subgenres? If you subtract John Tardy from Obituary it’s still Death Metal, sure. But if you replace him with a Power Metal powerhouse like say Jon Oliva? Would be weird to still call that Death Metal, right?

But what does the hype sticker on the album’s cellophane shell say about the matter? “An explosive journey of atmospheric guitar wizardry, thundering basslines & fierce vocals[…]” - Yes, I can confirm that, but good job avoiding the actual question of genre, Season Of Mist! - “[…] for fans of Jinjer, Tool, Meshuggah” Ok, those are all references I’m not particularly invested in, but I get it, big names (hopefully) sell. Are they suitable though? Especially Tool seems like a stretch. When you’re looking for it you will surely find some comparable moments, but does the music ever really feel similar? I don’t hear it. Meshuggah on the other hand are of course a no-brainer. Whenever you play Death Metal with chugging and bending extremely downtuned twenty-string guitars (loosely estimated) and rhythmic trickery which makes four-four time appear like something way more sophisticated than it actually is, calling upon the godfathers of that idea within the genre is logical and appropriate.

And Jinjer must be an attempt to lure the “female-fronted” something crowd, because the sticker author didn’t get the memo about the line-up change, right? - No, that’s actually wrong.

First of all Dalila Kayros isn’t as completely gone from Syk as I may have suggested. The very first vocals on the opener “I Am The Beast are mystical layerings of her voice akin to her fellow Italian spiritual sister Lili Refrain. But as soon as the relentless technical Extreme Metal attack which characterizes most of the album sets in, Stefano Ferrian’s gutturals undisputedly take the spotlight. But just when you thought said intro might have been the final passing of the torch the former frontwoman keeps returning as a sporadic guest with subtle backing vocals, which almost feel like an instrumental texture and can easily be missed during casual listening. Only towards the end she returns in more pronounced fashion for the harmonies in “For To Themselves I Left Them” and as a full-on equal duet lead singer in the epic closer “The Passing”, which suddenly feels rather like Avantgarde Post/Prog Metal than Death Metal again.

But all this has nothing to do with the Jinjer reference. In truth Dalila’s vocals might actually be the only thing not justifying´the comparison. Farrian’s growling style however sounds very close to Tatiana Shmayluk most of the time. I would even go so far to say that you could easily cut this whole album with live videos from the Ukrainians and it would be believable. Yes, you would wonder why the singer doesn’t use her clean range and why the songwriting is so much more consistent and less reliant on gimmicks than usual. And yes, of course Syk lean more towards dissonant chords with an Ad Nauseam flavour. But bands change. So if you allow the possibility of Jinjer putting out a release, on which they channel their compositional A-game exclusively in Death Metal-centric songs, it could absolutely sound like this. And I am there for it.

eartHFlesh is a banger. Presented in a clean but not too sterile production, constantly pushed forward by rolling and blasting beats and angular grooves, sick riffs, nasty leads and an inescapable rabid vocal presence, this album can be enjoyed for its ferocious Death Metal merits alone, but also offers a striking musical personality beyond just that. Especially given where the band had to start it’s quite remarkable that they didn’t waver while orientating themselves anew, but just squeezed out this smashing genre highlight!