Sikth: Opacities

Influential British prog metallers reunite on this bold ‘mini-album’.

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With the ascendancy of the ‘djent’ sub-genre in technical and progressive metal and its increasing influence on the wider metal scene, there’s more fervent interest in the bands who laid the template for the genre, SikTh and Meshuggah among them.

In SikTh’s case, that coincided with a long hiatus after vocalists Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill amicably left the band back in 2007. Now, after a reunion set at last year’s Download, the band are back with Goodman and Hill once more in the fold and a deal with Peaceville. But the question is – are SikTh still relevant?

Opener Behind The Doors is very millennial metal, with harsh, frantic vocals in a style that fell out of fashion when ‘nu metal’ left the mainstream. The chorus, on the other hand, is bombastic and emphatic in the vein of System Of A Down, and the dynamic shifts leading to the crescendo and thrashing outro remind that progressive rock was a genre to which SikTh were regularly ascribed.

Are SikTh still relevant? The answer is a resounding yes.

They do not stick to one sonic palette for a whole track. The sharp riffs of Philistine Philosophies again take a back seat to the soaring vocals in the choruses and middle eight; though the legato guitar runs between chord progressions are electric, the powerful vocal part is a show-stealer. Technical workout Walking Shadows, which follows the spoken-word interlude Tokyo Lights, feels somewhat more substantial, and the tail end of Opacities as a whole feels somewhat more thematically inclined as a result. The record’s artwork implies strongly that this is completely intentional. The expansive and atmospheric Days Are Dreamed is the perfect counterpoint to the majority of the material, and closes proceedings on a different, post-metal note.

What once made SikTh stick out has become less remarkable. Razor runs and catchy choruses counterpointing rhythmic progressive metal is, after all, a trademark of Periphery’s music. Dillinger Escape Plan have been touring and releasing records both before SikTh started and since the hiatus, meaning that Dillinger- and SikTh-inspired bands such as Rolo Tomassi are on their fourth records.

But as for that question of relevancy – the answer is a resounding yes. Despite all that time away, SikTh are still vital. Not content merely to rest on the laurels of fan and critical praise, they have taken their sound one step further, tightening up the guitars and removing some of the more arbitrary technical moments. Whether influenced by their producing careers or other projects, the band have a focus and a drive to build on their past and vindicate their present. The result is pure sonic alchemy.