Josh Middleton on why he left Architects and taking Sylosis to the next level
The Sylosis mastermind talks upcoming album A Sign of Things to Come, as well as the circumstances that led to him leaving British metalcore’s biggest band
Josh Middleton. Image: Jake Owens
It’s Josh Middleton’s first interview since leaving Architects – and he has no idea what the fuck to say. “There are gonna be plenty of questions and I’d considered they’d come up today,” the guitarist laughs, talking on a video call from his home in Reading. “I had a chat with Sam [Carter, Architects’ singer] earlier where I was like, ‘How are we gonna word this when people ask us?’”
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On 31 May, Josh and the Brighton metalcore stars officially parted ways. The announcement was received with shock and confusion, not least because the band seemed to be riding high after playing in Europe with Metallica. Josh had been close friends with his now-ex-bandmates since sharing stages with them in 2005, and quickly stepped in to replace co-founder Tom Searle after he passed in 2016 aged just 28.
He then became a key songwriter during his seven-year stint – and, seemingly out of the blue, it all ended in the space of one vague Instagram post wishing him the best in his future endeavours. The most vital of said endeavours right now is an album by his long-running extreme metal band Sylosis, called A Sign of Things to Come, which drops in September.
Today, Josh offers the first explanation of what went down. The musician is knowingly cagey, eager to avoid his words inspiring a thousand half-truths and clickbait headlines. However, what he does divulge is that it all boiled down to musical differences.
“We were on different pages musically – that’s the best way to put it,” he shrugs. “For the most part, I listen to really, really heavy music all the time. Obviously, I was getting excited about the next Sylosis record, because it’s quite heavy, and I guess it’s just a different direction.”
He adds: “I don’t know what Architects’ plans are. They may do something even heavier than before. They might not. I guess you could say the partnership ran its course, but we’re still friends and there’s no drama. I literally spoke to Sam earlier, just sending him memes.”
Although news of Josh’s exit surprised everyone on social media, it was, according to him, a smooth, civil and planned separation. Discussions about Architects’ musical future proved different parties had different plans, and it was agreed in early April that the Metallica support slots would be Josh’s last nights in the band.
“There wasn’t a big bust-up or anything,” he says. “That’s why we took a picture together at the last Metallica show. It was bittersweet: sad but, at the same time, I got to watch Metallica in the snake pit! It was a dream come true playing that stage.”
It was Architects that brought Josh to mainstream prominence, headlining arenas night in and night out and scoring UK number one albums, but it was Sylosis that brought him to the dance. The band – where Josh is the founder, guitarist, screamer-in-chief, producer and creative visionary – are the closest thing the musician has to a life’s work. He corralled their first lineup in 2000, while still in secondary school, and is 23 years later on the cusp of releasing their sixth album.
Despite Josh being the sole original Sylosis member still standing in 2023, A Sign of Things to Come is the sound of him loosening his grip on the wheel. What made the band darlings of the 2000s and 2010s metal scene was their technical fusion of thrash, death and prog metal while staying in E-standard tuning. Their songs were cavalcades of riffs that sometimes stretched well past the seven-minute mark. However, this time out, Josh sought to make “a classic record” comparable to Slipknot’s Iowa and Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven: in a career first, he hired an outside co-producer, namely Scott Atkins, and with his guidance made 10 concise, pure-blooded metal anthems.
“My manager was really brutal with me,” Josh remembers. “He was like, ‘You have not hit your potential as a songwriter. [Sylosis’ previous album] Cycle of Suffering was good, but where are the big, memorable moments?’ I could see what he was talking about, so the pandemic was, ‘Head down, I need to write a better record.’ Getting an idea of where Sylosis should be musically took a bit of getting used to, so this is almost a second debut.”
Lead single and opening track ‘Deadwood’ is a declaration of renewed fury and focus. In lieu of some flowery introduction, the song drops directly into hefty chords and a whirring lead guitar line. “Can’t find a way to detach, so light the fucking match!” Josh roars during verses about moving ever-forward through adversity, before arriving at a melodically sung bridge.
The title track follows with similar momentum, repeating an opening, ambient melody as a snarling, white-knuckle heavy metal hook. ‘Eye for an Eye’ and ‘Thorns’ both boast listenable singalongs as choruses, while ‘Judas’ evokes ’80s thrash in a rampage of pit-starting open-string chugging. The grandeur of the Sylosis of old even enjoys a victory lap on the closing ‘A Godless Throne’, which twitches through five minutes of guitar athletics, from powerful bends to fast-fingered fretwork. It all makes up a high-octane rampage that Josh summarises as ‘metal metal’: elusive of subgenre, yet always going right for the throat.
A Sign of Things to Come is the second album by the ‘new’ Sylosis, following 2020’s Cycle…. In 2016, seven months before joining Architects, Josh disbanded the four-piece, citing burnout and creative dissatisfaction. “I felt like I’d boxed us in musically,” he remembers.
“When we got signed to Nuclear Blast in 2007, there was loads of metalcore and deathcore that was trendy, and we just wanted to set ourselves apart from that. [I decided,] ‘We’re not playing breakdowns and we’re not downtuning. We’re just going to be in E-standard and focus on the riffs.’ It was a more old-school approach.”
Initially, those self-imposed limitations helped the band fly. Their debut album, 2008’s Conclusion of an Age, felt both modern and traditional simultaneously, casting virtuoso technicality and screaming vocals against sturdy riffs that could have been played by Metallica in the 1980s. One review of Sylosis’ third album Monolith went so far as to say it contained the best Metallica riffs that Metallica never wrote. “That was a huge, huge compliment to me,” Josh reflects today.
“[Sylosis playing in E-standard] used to be a talking point,” the frontman adds. “You’d always see YouTube comments going, ‘Oh, I can’t believe this is in E-standard!’ It was a badge of pride. All the bands we played with before Conclusion…, if you played their riffs in standard E, they might sound a bit shit. Whereas, if you’re in E-standard, your riffs have to be good, because you can hear every note perfectly.”
However, after the fourth album Dormant Heart in 2015, the trait became so ingrained in Sylosis’ DNA that Josh felt trapped by it. “During the last tour that we did [in March 2016], I remember thinking, ‘I really wish I were able to dig in and enjoy a super heavy riff,” he says. The band – also composed of guitarist Alex Bailey, bassist Carl Parnell and Bleed from Within drummer Ali Richardson – were put on the shelf and, in the brief interim between then and joining Architects, Josh started writing new, downtuned material for what he envisioned would be his next band.
“I submitted two demos to the label [Nuclear Blast] and they were like, ‘Why are you starting a new band? This sounds like Sylosis,’” he smiles. “At the time, I wasn’t talking to the guys in Sylosis about it. And given where I was at, and how burned out I was, it was a no-brainer to join Architects at that time.”
Life in Architects quickly became prolific. In 2017, the band graduated to arenas for the very first time, and in the same year also began work on their first album without Tom Searle, Holy Hell. They’d release two more albums with Josh in quick succession: 2021’s chart-topping For Those That Wish To Exist and 2022’s The Classic Symptoms of a Broken Spirit.
Meanwhile, Sylosis didn’t return until February 2020, with Conjurer bassist Conor Marshall replacing Carl Parnell. “Carl wasn’t enjoying touring as much,” Josh explains, “and I wanted to find someone who was more like a guitarist, more technical. I recorded the bass on Cycle… and didn’t meet Conor until we did the video shoot for [the album’s lead single] ‘I Sever’.”
Now that he’s out of Architects, Josh considers Sylosis to once again be his full-time project and main creative focus. His summer’s fully dedicated to promoting A Sign of Things to Come, the release of which will be followed by a European tour with Malevolence in November. And, beyond the immediate future, Josh is driven for Sylosis to penetrate the heavy music mainstream: the aspiration is for them to become the first all-guns-blazing extreme metal band in aeons to truly escape the underground.
“There are a lot of metal bands I like, but a lot of it feels underground, spread out and sparse,” he says. “Lamb of God were the last ‘metal metal’ band to truly get big. There’s a huge gap in the metal world for something like A Sign of Things to Come. I want to fill that gap.”
A Sign of Things to Come is out on 8th September via Nuclear Blast. Sylosis will tour the UK with Malevolence in November.