After witnessing Sirus’ mighty set at the Beat:Cancer show in London, it would be enough to get anyone hyped to hear the new album, Apocrypha. However, at the time of the event, the album was still around two weeks away from releasing. Fortunately for those attending, there were advance copies on sale at the merch stall. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to grab and early copy, and having nabbed one of the last ones available, I’m very glad I did! Initially, in the run up to it’s launch, I did have some worries. It was confirmed that there would be some metal elements added into the mix this time round, and considering Sirus is predominately electronic, I was concerned the sound would convert genres, like other artists within the scene have in recent years. I’m happy to say that was not the case here, so I needn’t have feared.

For those of you familiar with the band, you’ll know that the themes within their music are of a very political nature. Their previous two albums are filled with commentary on the greed and corruption within corporations and governments. This also extends to how technology is and can be used to monitor, manipulate and control everyday society. Needless to say, these themes have come to their inevitable evolution in Apocrypha, which is a full-blown concept album. To put the plot simply, it’s about life being a simulation, controlled by a rogue AI, that tortures those who don’t believe in it. Although to put it in such basic terms does not do the concept justice. It’s an incredibly rich and deep narrative of high-concept science fiction that’s absolutely mind-blowing (and terrifying) stuff, utilizing ancient Egyptian mythology as a platform. If you can, I’d highly recommend purchasing a physical copy of this, as it goes into fascinating detail.

“Enter Cairo” sets the scene, as the Egyptian theme bleeds into the music, backed by a buildup of synths, as reports of the dangers of machine learning, and the precautions needed, are spoken over the soundscape. “Singularity” starts with dramatic orchestral elements, before transforming into a tense assault of synths, with Josh Rombout’s vocals as harsh as ever. It has a very metal edge to it in terms of structure, whilst the chorus gives way to sea of synths. The song was the first single used to promote the album, but this version still packs in some surprises by being over a minute longer, with some extra instrumental goodness. “Decode and Devour” has catchy pounding beats and rhythms, that transition into a chunky, stomping sound. Then, out of nowhere it becomes a metal track, complete with a barrage of guitars, before casually returning to the electro sound it started with. Somehow this blends together seamlessly. The first half of “Symphony of Revenge” is quite breathtaking, continuing with the Egyptian themes laid out earlier, making for a mesmerizing atmosphere. This completely changes after Rombout delivers a calm and collected melody, signalling the start of a chaotic drum and bass style sound. The hooks from hereon are fantastic, continually switching styles to great effect. “Exotic Code” begins with the sampling of a phone conversation, as the recipient suspects the caller is a robot. Distortion is used effectively, making this come across as a bit disturbing. This builds into a viscerally-charged, hard-hitting wall of noise that sounds like an apocalyptic dance tune. “Deep State” continues the harsh beats, but in a change of pace, Rombout raps. The BPM is much slower on this one, and it has a very coarse mood to it. If it seems a bit Seraphim System, then that’s pretty apt, because the man himself, John Stancil, joins in for guest vocals. It’s very aggressive in tone, and interesting to see this drastically different style used. Though it still manages to blend in with the rest of the album. “Basilisk” features amazing harmonies from Keeva. The overall feel of this track is dark, with it’s foreboding ambience. It introduces a catchy rhythm, that gives way to a destructive soundscape and gritty beats. “Nerve Agent” starts off as a brutal metal track, with bulky guitar riffs and thundering drumming. It advances back to electro sound we’re all familiar with, but is no less chaotic, including a dirty sounding danceable rhythm. The nerd in me also appreciates the sampling of sound effects from Half-Life in this one. “The Book of Gates” has an exotic sounding opening, progressing into a spectacular metal style melody. Keeva is most prominent on vocals here, and they are stunning. At times, the mood is very reminiscent of Lacuna Coil. A trance section is introduced part way through, including an aggressive vocal delivery from Rombout, as the synths self-destruct around him. The contrast between melodic and heavy is at it’s strongest here, and creates a brilliant dynamic within the track. “Tahrir” is an epic instrumental outro, with a sense of urgency to it, and a dramatic feel. Orchestral, Egyptian themes and industrial all blend in harmony, and electro breakdown towards the end helps to complete the spectrum. The statement sampled at the end is haunting, and is a continuation from the same one used at the start of the album. This creates the perfect bookend to the story.

Apocrypha is not just a spectacular album, but it’s Sirus’ strongest work yet. The way in which sonic elements evolve and genres are continually thrown into the mix throughout the record is executed flawlessly. It constantly changes in scope and sound, yet still remains coherent, keeping to the core of what the band is all about, all whilst still managing to explore uncharted territory. The fact this is wrapped in such a brilliantly told narrative only sweetens the deal. It feels like the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist, and considering the quality presented here, I feel like one based on this should exist. It’s a journey that needs to be experienced from beginning to end. Sirus have pushed the boundaries exponentially, and have not only created a masterpiece, but one of the best concept albums I’ve ever had the fortune of listening to.

Final verdict: An absolute masterpiece. Not only is Apocrypha Sirus’ best work, it’s also one of the best concept albums out there. This is an experience not to be missed!

Tracklist:

  1. Enter Cairo
  2. Singularity
  3. Decode and Devour
  4. Symphony of Revenge
  5. Exotic Code
  6. Deep State
  7. Basilisk
  8. Nerve Agent
  9. The Book of Gates
  10. Tahrir