The digitization of the music industry over the last 20-plus years has lead to some interesting developments, and the rate at which the business is changing will only continue to accelerate. One of the more exciting developments is the way in which independent artists can leverage platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok to build fanbases and collaborate with established names without the help of a record label. One of the most prolific examples of the content creator crossover in the rock and metal world is Jared Dines, a Washington-based guitarist who built a massive following on YouTube over the last few years with countless videos of covers and original material mainly focusing on the djent, metalcore and deathcore genres; not to mention his “Shred Wars” and shred collab videos with several prominent guitarists across the world and the humour he peppers much of his content with.

His online presence, branding and guitar skills most of all have taken him to great places and succeed in crossing over to work with some big names in metal. Last year the best example of this was his work with Trivium’s Matt Heafy which resulted in a collaborative EP between the two, now in 2021 it’s Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage fame. The project between Dines and Jones is called SION (taken from Jones’ middle name), which is also the name of their newly-released debut LP. A couple of singles were dropped in advance, the first and most popular so far being the ferocious “The Blade” which opens this record up. The combination of Dines’ signature crushing djent tones and melodic solos with Jones’ impossibly powerful screams and clean choruses sets the tone for the rest of the album, as evidenced by “Drown” and the equally heavy and soaring “More Than Just Myself”.

The Worst Way” is a bit cleaner than its predecessors but still retains more than enough crunch; in contrast “Buried Alive and Wide Awake” is every bit as heavy as it sounds, at times sounding like Trivium with a bit more of a hardcore influence. “Skyfall” carries a sonic depth and vibe similar to “Drown” while “Endless War” falls on the melodic side of things and “A Constant Reminder” once more showcases Dines’ relentless riffs with some lead help from All That Remains’ Jason Richardson. The light-speed chaos of “Something To Live For” is the most metal track in this core-centric album, thrashing and blasting even harder than “More Than Just Myself.” We get some deadly breakdowns and Dines shredding on “Great Deceiver”, followed up by an intense vocal performance from Jones on “Dying of The Light”. The closer “Inside The Hollow” changes things up nicely, stripping back much of the flash and aggression of the rest of the album to dive into the emotions underneath; something that was there all throughout the album but you wouldn’t necessarily notice if all you paid attention to was the facade of heaviness and technicality- much like life, in many ways.

This first album from SION is nothing short of exciting, mainly because of the different types of potential that Dines and Jones’ project shows. On the musical side, you get a handful of dynamics and moods that can be further explored and expanded on; there’s plenty of possibilities for them to push each other to new creative heights if they recognize them and seize on them right away. On the industry side of things, as noted earlier a collaboration like this between an artist who made their bones in the business and an artist who built himself up on the internet just goes to show what’s possible for indie artists and creators in 2021, and furthermore what can be possible in 2022 and beyond. Work hard enough at your instrument of choice, generate a live presence and get a grasp of the online realm and the options are limitless- you can build your buzz to the point that you catch the eyes of A&Rs and potentially get signed, or you can master the indie game and make a healthy and autonomous profit on your own. You can work the art of social media down to a fine science and rule the likes of YouTube and TikTok, or you can follow Jared Dines’ footsteps and combine the best of both worlds, all the better for your credibility overall. There’s no telling exactly where things will go in music in the next few years, but acts like SION should certainly give us a clue.

RATING: 4.5/5