This month, Sikth will release their first new music in almost a decade.
The six men who practically wrote the blueprint for the tech metal explosion that is still seeing the likes of Tesseract and Periphery flying high will be showing the proggy pups how it’s done for the very first time. As it happens, Opacities, a five-track mini-album, picks up where 2006’s Death Of A Dead Day left off. In-between the complex riffs and the bells and whistles that made Sikth, well, Sikth, you’ll find six musicians re-energised by their lengthy hiatus and a new approach to songwriting which has more groove and the space to allow their million-ideas-per-second to breathe.
Amid the controlled chaos, however, there’s an uneasiness that bubbles under the surface. A quick glance would suggest that co-vocalist Mikee Goodman’s lyrics typically examine how truly fucked society is. But, as Metal Hammer discovers, he’s picked at old wounds to explore the tar-black moments of his life – a potentially damaging experiment designed to complement the depth and pace of the music itself.
“This music was not easy to write lyrics to,” he explains, “but you have to be true to yourself. I see a lot of light and dark and Opacities is really dark, to be honest. So, there are songs about getting out of a depressive mindset, but there’s positivity and escapism, too.
“I’ve had happy periods, but I’ve had a lot more depressive periods,” he adds quietly. “It’s a massive battle, but to sing and scream and write out poetry is therapeutic.”
Tellingly, it’s the story of a 2012 trip to Japan that has informed what is possibly his best work, an atmospheric spoken-word piece called Tokyo Lights. At the time, the idea of Sikth ever performing again seemed absurd, and so, with a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction and the feeling of being uncomfortable in the UK, Mikee headed to the bustling city in search of inspiration. He’d fallen in love with the country ever since the band played there in 2004 and felt the need to hit reset and rediscover the essence of what drove him to create in the first place.
“I was in a stale place,” he reveals. “I was depressed and felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, so I wanted to go to Japan.”
With a voice like a demon guzzling a mug of hot treacle, Mikee’s lyrics recount an inspirational night out through a fantastical narrative: ‘Don’t let your boat be empty/Don’t be a sunken dream’ he admonishes at the end of the track. It would appear his 12,000-mile roundtrip paid dividends.
“It’s a magical place,” he smiles. “I felt at home, even though I don’t speak the language.”
Mikee says that channelling creative ideas into new Sikth material, video production or spoken word helps him get through the blackest of days – and he sounds all the more positive for it.
“That’s what gets it out,” he says, matter-of-factly. “To be honest, it’s where you are in your life, too. You might feel really good if things are going well. It’s when things aren’t going well that could lead you to going further and further into that place. It’s easy for people to say ‘think positive’, but it’s easier said than done. I draw on experiences of coming out of depression and [these lyrics were] a massive challenge to write. It’s a massive form of therapy for me.”
And to think, this outlet almost didn’t present itself.
At the turn of the millennium, Sikth were something of an anomaly in the British metal scene. Nu metal was doing brisk business, yet here were six fiercely talented musicians who were creating something unique and devoid of categorisation. It was a collision of crunch, odd tempos, frantically yelped lyrics and a sense of melodic nous seeped through a carefully crafted racket. Like Faith No More before them, it was a crash of opposing ideas and a soupçon of bristling tension that made them a force to be reckoned with. But then again, what great art came from great comfort? Some eight years after their formation, the Watford-based six-piece buckled under the weight of their self-inflicted pressure and their innovation seemed destined to become a footnote in British rock history.
Seven years later and a fortnight before Christmas 2013, the band announced plans to play a one-off show the next summer. No one saw it coming. It was the sort of news that would have made Nostradamus do a double-take had he not been quietly decomposing for several centuries. But in the years following their split, their reunion felt right. After all, the djent genre – a movement to which Sikth’s contribution is immeasurable – was going from strength to strength. That’s why their phone started to ring with festival offers, all of which were politely turned down. Then one day, it all changed. The band said yes to Andy Copping and their name was added to the top of the Red Bull stage bill at Download 2014.
It was during Part Of The Friction, the second song of their set, that the enormity of the event hit home.
“I was almost in tears,” Mikee recalls. “I had accepted that Sikth was something in the past and would never happen again. When we started playing, it was overwhelming. I wanted it so much.”
The initial idea was simple: play Donington and see how it goes. Luckily, it went very well; the band found themselves playing more festival shows before heading to Nepal and India. They announced a full UK tour and were soon performing to more people than ever before, the legend of the band having never stopped growing in those intervening years.
Despite that, with Opacities now on the table, it’s a wonder the band have had a chance to actually make anything at all. Chat to Mikee for any length of time about Sikth and it’s clear that there’s an element of creative tension running through the fold – a highly combustible spark that is doubtless what drove the band to implosion in the first place. “Pressure and stress brings different things from different people,” is Mikee’s levelheaded take on inter-band relationships. “Sikth is a band with many different visions of perfection, so it was very hard for decisions to be made. We just wanted to see how we got on with each other. It took us a while to decide to write new music because everyone is so busy now.”
Indeed, if it wasn’t creative differences threatening to scupper any new music, it was all six members of the fold having long committed themselves to other endeavours. Most prominently, perhaps, Mikee worked on Primal Rock Rebellion with Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith – a process he says was crucial in getting his head back in the game.
“Making the Primal Rock Rebellion album was one of the nicest experiences I’ve known,” he reveals. “Adrian wrote for me in a certain way and told me what I was capable of. That gave me a lot of confidence.”
Now, however, the band that made him is back in full focus, and has, as Mikee puts it, “consumed” his life as of late.
“I can’t say it’s been an enjoyable experience,” says Mikee. “Sikth is six different personalities with different opinions, so I’ll keep away while they’re recording. It was too intense for me, man. But that’s Sikth – it’s what you get and it comes out in the music.”
With Opacities about to hit the shelves – virtual or otherwise – and their biggest UK tour to date ready to kick off in December, all signs point to a future which will cast light in the darkest of corners – however fractured that light may be.
“When you’re older, you realise it’s such an honour to make music and have people who want to listen to it,” concludes Mikee. “When you create something new, there’s no other feeling like it. It’s so uplifting.”
*Opacities* is out November 27 via Pledge. Sikth tour the UK next month
Sikth’s huge influence on modern metal goes far beyond their own music…
Mikee Goodman (vocals): As well as guest appearances for This Is Menace and Bat For Lashes, Mikee formed Primal Rock Rebellion with Maiden legend Adrian Smith, and also has genre-smashing new band Outside The Coma on the boil.
Dan Weller (guitar): Though he recently formed In Colour with Tesseract frontman Dan Tompkins (right), Dan has found considerable success as a producer, working with the likes of Enter Shikari, Young Guns, Gallows, Rise To Remain and LostAlone.
Justin Hill (vocals): Justin was briefly also a member of In Colour, but left to concentrate on music production. He’s not done bad for himself in that respect, having worked with the likes of Heart Of A Coward, Polar and Bury Tomorrow.
Graham ‘Pin’ Pinney: Post-Sikth, Pin founded the excellent Aliases, who dropped their acclaimed Safer Than Reality mini-album in 2011. Currently signed to Basick Records, they’re expected to release their debut full-length early next year.
James Leach (bass): James is currently also strutting his stuff in Messenger and Krokodil. The latter – also featuring Sikth drummer Dan Foord, A’s Daniel P. Carter and Liber Necris vocalist Simon Wright – released debut album Nachash in 2014.
Dan Foord (drums): During the hiatus, Dan became a qualified teacher, drummed on the Primal Rock Rebellion album, did a world tour with Whiplash and, as mentioned, is now also behind the kit in Krokodil.