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Syrus - Syrus (CD)

by Yiannis Doukas at 15 September 2009, 2:01 PM

No matter how much you dig in the underground 80s USA scene you will always find new bands. And it's not only that, you see unbelievable quality groups that right now are forgotten in time's oblivion. More specifically, Texas in the period between mid 80s and 1990 seemed like a Metal boiling furnace. A lot of killer bands that were special for many reasons mainly cause the unique identity they had. Yes, Texas was unique; groups that had incredible musical skills, playing with passion, including great power and usually their singers had physical vocalic abilities that made them look like aliens.
One of these bands was the San Antonio-based SYRUS. Their history starts probably in the middle of 1983 when two guitarists, Al Berlanga and John Castilleja, put the base for a musical group together with the drummer Ken Ortiz. The bassist position replenished with Julio Paz and after some rehearsals and auditions behind singing would be Ken's friend named Michael Vasquez. In the beginning they called themselves SACRED PREY but soon they changed it to SYRUS taken from a The Warriors's movie character, although that one was 'Cyrus'.
The band had a great live activity in their hometown as headliner or support to bands like WATCHTOWER or JUGGERNAUT. During February 1986 they recorded at Starr Studios with the help of Gilbert Vallenzuela six songs that would become the first and the only official demo tape. Including dynamites as Blitzkrieg or Midnight Chimes we hear the super power of SYRUS that if we combine it with their technical style will ruin your houses. The basic themes of Unbroken Rhymes and City Of The Sky will melt your head while the 'IRON MAIDEN horse riding' way of their songs is fascinating. The vocals are very nice, Michael Vasquez is catching high notes keeping the melody inside. Perfect is also the To The Demon Or The Deity instrumental with its 'labyrinth like' structure having pauses, breaks and a riff after its fourth minute that works as a background for the solo which is raping asses. In general and to end; a demo with hot as hell, pure, Heavy Metal that will bleed your ears.
Through tape trading and gigs SYRUS became more famous in the Texas zone and outside of it. They expanded their giging area going to cities like Austin playing with bands like MILITIA or as support in their hometown with FATES WARNING, OMEN and PAUL DIANNO'S BATTLEZONE. In year 1987 drummer Ken Ortiz left the band and we will meet him again in the first demo recording of OBLIVION KNIGHT, done in the same year. Except for the drummer, Michael Vasquez will part ways with SYRUS and the result will be the coming of the well-known Ray Balderama (aka Ray Alder) in vocals and Julio Gomez in drums. This new lineup recorded four songs, probably at Editpoint Studios. The band became better with songs more solid and fascinating. The middle part of Tales Of War is epical and the way that Ray sings songs like the The Hunt reflects his talent. SYRUS's music gained a more intense dramatic tune and all the refrains became hymns. Unfortunately somewhere there they disband with a reunion happening in 1988 including the original lineup playing a gig at the Cameo Theater in 13/3/1988. But due to some inner problems in the end they will stay the basic song writer Al Berlanga together with Michael Vasquez. Next to them was RIOT's bass player Pete Perez and Tony Ramos behind the drum kit. The other guitar player, John Castilleja, started a new band under the CHOZZEN PHATE name and SYRUS for the first time and the last would be a four piece. This line up must ended in 1990 when came the final split of the band.
Two decades later the Greek obscure label Steel Legacy Records will gather all the before mentioned recordings together with some live tracks and release this compilation reminding us again of these Heavy Metal maniacs. The sound is not so good, basically the studio things are OK but the live tracks have poor quality. But even these tracks are killers; look at Marching On and in the end the last thing that concerns you is the sound; the music - and that is all that's worth - is a killer. Also the CD version (limited to 1000 copies while the vinyl is to 333) includes a DVD with a live performance. This is a real document but I don't know what year it comes from. I guess it must be from the 1988 period and the lineup is the original. The artwork is very good, keeping the underground style with a booklet having a lot of gig flyers and the only I would wish for is more biographical details of the band.
Every 80s USA Metal friend will spend unique moments with SYRUS. I keep listening to their music everyday for almost two months. I don't know, SYRUS have taken my mind away. If there is something that makes me sad is the lost opportunity of hearing their stuff in an officially released record back then with the appropriate sound. They had at least two full-length LPs of high quality music. But even this way the immortal Heavy Metal spirit remains alive in the underground dungeons. For more info you can also check the great webzine Texas Metal Underground that has an interview of SYRUS with lot of information that helped me writting this review (link).

4 Star Rating

Through Thine Knights Eyes
To The Demon Or The Deity
Midnight Chimes
Unbroken Rhymes
City Of The Sky
Tales Of War
The Hunt
Mirror Mirror
Marching On (Live) (CD Bonus)
The Rule (Live) (CD Bonus)
Into The Twilight (Live) (Vinyl Bonus)
VD 101 (Live) (Vinyl Bonus)
Demo '86:
Michael Vasquez - Vocals
Albert Berlanga - Guitars
John Castilleja - Guitars
Julio Paz - Bass
Ken Ortiz - Drums

Demo '87:
Ray Balderama - Vocals
Albert Berlanga - Guitars
John Castilleja - Guitars
Julio Paz - Bass
Julio Gomez - Drums
Record Label: Steel Legacy Records


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