First Listen: SikTh’s Mini Album ‘Opacities’
The UK prog metal pioneers return to form with a few modern metal tricks they’ve picked up along the way in the nine years since their last release
In June last year, UK prog metal band SikTh’s guitarist Dan Weller was still on the fence about whether they would consider writing new material, since the band was only just easing into a proper reunion after being apart for six years. But it looks like popular demand ”“ not just in the UK but also clamor across the world that even brought them to India for the first edition of metal festival BIG69 in January this year ”“ strengthened their willingness to write more songs. And of course, as Weller pointed out earlier, it can also be chalked down to their own resolve to get back in the game after biding their time. Weller said in a June 2014 interview, “It [SikTh] is about creating riffs that take ages to work out, ages to play”¦ structural matters, basically. We’d probably take a year to work on it if we want to make sure it’s very special.”
It’s been about more than a year and SikTh, the forerunners of what has now become modern prog metal or djent, have returned with a six-track mini-album called Opacities. Here are our first thoughts on each track that is the first new material since 2006’s Death of a Dead Day. Opacities is set to release on December 4th on UK label Peaceville, ahead of their five-city UK tour alongside fellow BIG69 headliners, UK rap/grime metallers Hacktivist.
“Behind The Doors”
The opening track is a real groove fest that harkens back to older material in terms of tones and the chaos of it all. Vocalists Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill take their places as manic and melodic voices, respectively, in a song that’s possibly about drugs [“Look beneath the memories, climb up in the highest tree/Medication king adulation”]. Hill’s croon that closes the bridge is especially new territory, indicating that the band now has a lot more modern production skills at their disposal compared to 2006, keeping things polished.
The lead single from Opacities is every bit what you expect it to be ”“ mind-melting guitar duels between Graham Pinney and Dan Weller that also has a few anthemic vocal lines from Hill and Goodman. The song’s clearly a takedown of the music industry today, straight from lines like “We saw the golden age/Digitally decay” to “There’s too much congestion and a lack of invention,” which can also apply to the explosion of djent bands that SikTh helped spawn. But this is easily one of the most memorable tracks on Opacities, bassist James Leach keeping the grooves wicked and drummer Dan Foord firing on all cylinders.
“Under the Weeping Moon”
Keeping with the album title’s play on words, SikTh are singing about greed and hollow city life and they make it equal parts catchy and unpredictable. Some parts aren’t wildly different from what they’ve been going for in the prior two tracks, but then they snap you back in attention with a surprisingly simple a face-to-the-floor breakdown outro.
If you know SikTh, then you know they do interludes like no other band. Goodman, with his schizophrenic range, talks about walking through Tokyo on a night feeling regret. From a dark menacing growl to a spoken-word performance that is clearly mentioned in the liner notes: “All background sounds are vocals.” That’s Mikee W Goodman for you, folks.
SikTh opt for a few straight-forward riffs, but there’s always more to it when you listen closer to what each instrument is doing. There’s plenty to baffle your brains, especially just wondering how many fingers these guitarists have, or whether Foord has an extra arm to help him tower over the kit. “Walking Shadows” is probably about the tour life [“I don’t know where we’re going, just get on the fucking plane!”] and how one never looks at home the same way again. With a more modern polish to their music, SikTh sound like they’d fit right in with Canadian prog metallers Protest the Hero, the frenetic guitar and drum work interplayed with an arena-rockesque closing section.
“Days Are Dreamed”
That’s the end of heavy songs for SikTh on Opacities, because their closing track is a slow, emo layer-heavy love song that’s not about blazing guitar work or clockwork drumming. But they still manage to overwhelm, this time with a viola-driven crescendo, as Goodman screams and wails “Why?”. “Days Are Dreamed” adds that much needed touch of diversity, although many would have perhaps preferred more frenzy.
Listen to “Philistine Philosophies”