Sikth, live in London

Support: Heart Of A Coward, Idiom

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When Sikth were last kicking round the music scene it was a very different time for British metal. They frankly, after the demise of Earthtone9, had absolutely no competition as the band for fans of intelligent, original, heavy contemporary music. With all due respect for the long gone and thankfully forgotten likes of Kilkus, Kill II This and Brutal Deluxe they couldn’t hold an unlit match, let alone a candle, to the Watford sextet. That is no longer the case.

Tonight in Idiom and Heart Of A Coward we get just two examples of the strength of our ever growing scene. Idiom are the perfect kick start to any party, their meld of classic nu-metal bounce and a much harder edged take on punk rock in the vein of Cancer Bats and The Bronx sounds familiar and refreshing all at the same time. There are precious few inside Koko as they arrive, but as the venue fills so does the love for Idiom. The band are constantly energetic, particularly frontman Matt Sharland who spends the set screaming, singing, throwing shapes in all manner of directions and has a decent line in amusing and engaging stage patter. By the time they end with Brain Dead, a song that has so much bounce it’s practically aural flubber, Sharland has left the stage and is slap bang in the middle of a huge circle pit. They make a lot of friends tonight.

Heart Of A Coward obviously already have a lot of friends in attendance, this is clear from the cheer that greets them and the venue-wide chant of ‘I don’t give a FUCK!’ during the pummelling Deadweight. To be honest if it’s a choice between being a friend or enemy of HOAC then you’ll take the former option every time, as this band are a scary proposition. Where Idiom took fun and positivity to whip up the crowd they take gruesomely heavy guitar riffs, bass drops that sound like they are about to crack the Earth’s core and Jamie Graham’s demonic growls to impassioned wails intimidate the crowd in submission. The knockout blow has landed already by the time Sikth’s Justin Hill joins the band to add vocal layers to Distance, so consider that an extra boot to the gut. By the time they do leave you’re in no doubt that this is a band that are primed for major success, and, with support bands of such exceptional quality, you actually worry for Sikth for a second.

Of course it is literally a second that those worries last for, because Sikth are completely perfect tonight. Yes, in their time away elements of the sound they conceived may be far more commonplace than before, yes they move a little slower onstage than they did in their early whirling, headfuck performances. But from the second the opening riff to Bland Street Bloom sends shivers down your spine for the first of many times tonight it is almost impossible to find fault with this band. For starters the musicians onstage are so hypnotically tight they nearly strangle the air out of you.

Much has been written about the twin guitar frenzy that Dan Weller and Graham ‘Pin’ Pinney serve up but the rhythm section of the jazz trained drummer Dan Foord and the liquid slap funk that James Leach provide are just as magnificent. Then there is the dual frontman attack of Hill, whose range nails the delicate melodies and the yelping screams in a blink of an eye, and the enigmatic Mikee Goodman. If there is a star of the show then he is it, possessing not so much a vocal range as a set of multiple personalities. Death metal growls, high-pitched screeches, babbling possessed by the devil tongues, breathless scats, Goodman is the closest thing to Mike Patton this country has ever produced. His spoken word When Will The Forest Speak…? is barked back to him by the sold-out crowd as he takes them on a journey into his unique psyche.

Anyone involved in commercial music would tell you that such a move would never work, the fact that it does speaks volumes about Sikth and their ability to harness such a single-minded vision. Songs like Hold My Finger and Wait For Something Wild sound so far ahead of their time even today, mainly because, although the blueprint for Sikth was appropriated by so many, no-one could ever match such wide-eyed insanity. This is lightning in a bottle, able to exist solely between these six individuals creative input. When the band return for an encore of a rabid and ageless Pussyfoot, Mikee tells the crowd that Sikth wish to record new material, and then thank them for discovering the music without the aid of TV or magazines before departing and leaving a couple of thousand jaws firmly dragging on the floor. Consider this a wrong righted; after seven years dormant Sikth are still miles ahead of the pack. Look to the skies, they’re flying far above us.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.