The Scottish metal scene is a thriving metropolis for artists north of the English border and even attracts funding from the National Lottery through its sister agency, Creative Scotland. One such beneficiary is the blackened death metal quartet, Tyrannus, who present us with their debut album, following their 2019 self-titled EP and a well-received demo last year. Let by principal songwriter and frontman/guitarist, Callum John Cant, the band expanded to a quartet in 2021 and now look set to tear up the Edinburgh scene. Unslayable is a fierce piece of metal with progressive undertones and a righteous anti-fascist snarl.
It’s clear Tyrannus had one eye on the live stage during the recording process for this record. The guitars crunch and hiss like hostile gadgets ready to electrocute you if you get too close, while Callum John Cant relies on animated single-tracked vocals to guide the rhythms. And yet the opening song is an instrumental mood piece like early Anathema in the way it combines simple arpeggios with a clean delay tone among atmospheric keyboards. Listen how the follow up, ‘A Worse Reality’, menaces with a thrash metal intro of dramatic drum accents and galloping guitars before the blackened death metal supremacy kicks into gear. This is aggressive music, but it cracks the age-old riddle of its genre – how do you purvey an abstract darkness among such a cacophony of heavy dynamics? One answer might lie in the poignancy of the lyrics: “Seek love from hatred/ Sustained by your death/ Consumes your flesh and soul/ Let it eat you whole.” The message is clear: beware of rabble-rousing populists that seek to divide society.
Those that like their black metal spiked with the adrenaline of thrash will find much to admire here. ‘The Flood’ starts like classic Dark Angel with a barrage of rapid alt-picking riffs yet surprises you with its expedition through a slower morass of doom chords. It’s a brave decision to let the guitars take a step back in the path of an oncoming bass line and double-handed hi-hat rhythm, especially when you want to build towards an obtuse guitar solo. This is sophisticated extreme metal.
Only one thing irks you through the listening journey of Unslayable – the blast beats. These are as essential to the genre as air-conditioning is to every household in The Philippines, but the snares are inaudible among the chaos of ‘It Taketh’. This song will remind you of the death metal savagery of London quartet, Phobetor, with traces of old-school Deicide. The modulation to a bass guitar dirge at 01:41 seconds could even pass for a post-metal introspection. Drama and mood are the two biggest features here. Take the title track as an example: this pulsates like Immortal’s interpretation of Teutonic thrash, yet it experiments with esoteric Chuck Schuldiner guitar patterns when you need a breather from the head-banging chaos. You might even hear traces of the latest Dark Funeral album in ‘Light the Last Sun’, and is that not a clear stadium metal outro created for Abbath’s fans to wave their fists to in unison at the end?
A cameo appearance from Maud the Moth in closing track, ‘Break the Will of Evil’, tells you everything you need to know about Tyrannus. They bring the riffs and flirt with prog metal experimentation, but their message is a serious one: “No more hatred, no more oppression/ Just beauty and love/ We will win/ We must win/ And break the chains,” roars Callum John Cant, in a grisly voice. It’s a pessimistic vision of the future where nationalist majorities in developed countries turn to ethnic authoritarianism, but it’s one that Tyrannus see as an inevitability if we do nothing about it.
They thrash like Slayer and froth like Behemoth. Tyrannus are on the march and will sweep you up in their momentum.
Release Date: 22/04/2022
Record Label: True Cult Records
Standout tracks: A Worse Reality, The Flood, Unslayable
Suggested Further Listening: Phobetor – Through Deepest Fears and Darkest Minds (2021), Hate – Rugia (2021), Otargos – Fleshborer Soulflayer (2021)