For Fans Of
The future is more often than not defined by what epoch of art, technological advancements, politics, schools of thought, and the particularly significant events – in whatever manner – that preluded it. For the gift of the present and the possibilities of the unwritten future are nothing without the past.
As such, back in 2006, England’s SikTh – the very band that some of your favourite progressive metal artists wish they themselves were – released a classic (if now somewhat dated) record titled ‘Death Of A Dead Day‘, before slipping into the void come 2008. This record, along with their 2003 debut, ‘The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out, Wait for Something Wild‘, are two of the few old-guard releases that helped to shape the technical-laden, djent-sounding, strings-aplenty prog-metal landscape into what it is now. Alongside Tool, Sweden’s Meshuggah, and to some degree The Dillinger Escape Plan, the eccentric and complex sound of SikTh from the past decade is what you have to thank for the Periphery’s and Tesseract’s of today’s current age.
Of course, while this style of metal is a dime a dozen nowadays, whether from instrumental acts or otherwise, and while some do it very well (Good Tiger, Veil Of Maya, Animals As Leaders, and Periphery), SikTh was one of the first. Aside from being one of the key forerunner acts, this quintet has always been a little different – both then and now – and something nonetheless special. And not just because of their progenitor status but because they’re simply so adept at writing and delivering their complex craft. That rang true eleven years ago with their sophomore and it still rings true now in 2017.
In 2014, the band fully reformed (sans Justin Hill and instead featuring new co-vocalist Joe Rosser) and in the following year, they dropped their solid ‘Opacities‘ EP. However, while that was indeed the first return of SikTh, June’s ‘The Future In Whose Eyes?‘ full-length is the true, definitive statement of their almighty return.
And my god, what a fucking statement it is!
Thematically, as this grand record’s title suggests, it’s a highly critical question aimed at the current state of our world and where it’s heading; both on a microcosmic personal and emotional level, as well as a wider, external macrocosm of our larger society and the ideals housed within. Musically, however, this really is the SikTh of old but with a 2017 lick of polish and punch to it; one that will rekindle the passion of old fans and hopefully draw in the younger and uninitiated ears out there.
Across this solid record’s 12 tracks – bar the spoken word pieces – the band’s strong emphasis on monolithic groove (‘Vivid‘, ‘The Aura‘), driving and often erratic rhythms, punchy bass lines, and their gloriously bending guitar work and heavy riffs (‘Riddles Of Humanity‘, ‘Century Of The Narcissist?‘) are all at wondrous play. So too are Mikee Goodman’s and Rosser’s dual vocal patterns and harmonic, weaving, and call-and-response interplay, delivering animalistic mid-range screams and growls, wonderful clean singing, and the occasional spoken word moment (albeit much more present here than on past records); with as strange and lucid lyrics as ever.
Although unlike past records, this LP features more hook-driven melodies between Goodman and Rosser, which only bolsters that “SikTh” sound even further, with some really catchy vocal melodies found on ‘No Wishbones‘, ‘Weavers Of Woe‘, and the more restrained cut of ‘Golden Cufflinks‘ (also where the album’s title derives from lyrically speaking). Further adding to this element is SikTh’s first ever guest feature in the form of Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo appearing in the massive, uplifting choruses of ‘Cracks Of Light‘ – an emotional song about the depression experienced by Goodman – and is most certainly a bucket list collaboration for the Periphery frontman.
Also on the topic of the vocals, breaking this record up from the assault of thundering grooves, varied vocal timbres and tasty riffs, are a handful of poetic, spoken word tracks delivered by Goodman. For instance, ‘The Ship Has Sailed‘ preludes the mammoth rhythmic and melodic surgical strike that is ‘Weavers Of Woe‘; a dire (if rather trite) warning about the governments, corporations, and individuals who influence trends and ideas silently but also very deceptively. The disconcerting tale of human transactions – of both money and of the flesh – on the unnerving ‘The Moon’s Been Gone Hours‘, leads into the jagged and swirling dirge of ‘Riddles Of Humanity‘. Then but two songs later, the album wraps up with the dark, eerie tones and spacey synths of ‘When It Rains‘, also a spoken word song by and large. It’s a rather low-key end to the proceedings and some may argue to be a very anti-climactic one, but in the grand scheme of this album, the penultimate ‘Ride The Illusion‘ just wouldn’t cut it as a finale.
Of course, spoken word sections are nothing new for SikTh (see: the ‘Opacities‘ EP and ‘When Will the Forest Speak…?‘), but here they’re succinct and they give ”The Future In Whose Eyes?‘ a strong ebb and flow and a real sense of dynamic.
However, as much I enjoy ‘The Future In Whose Eyes?‘ (quite a lot if you couldn’t tell by now), admittedly, this approach isn’t as impressive as it was ten years ago when this genre was far less cluttered. Yet SikTh easily gets away with it now, for a) being one of the few instigators of such a sound and because b) time has not affected their skill or musicianship. In fact, the only thing that time has “affected” is the sonic dating of the group’s first two records; something that I very much doubt will happen to ‘The Future In Whose Eyes?‘.
For that comes down to the album’s production being done in-house by Goodman and guitarist Dan Weller (who has in recent years made Enter Shikari sound incredibly fucking good) and with the mix being given life by the I’m-in-Periphery-but-I’m-also-not-at-the-same-time bassist Adam “Nolly” Getgood. As such, SikTh’s ludicrously tight brand of prog-metal has never sounded this goddamned impeccable! Whether it’s the machine-like, pristine-sounding kit playing of drummer Dan “Loord” Foord, the beautifully crunchy bass tones of James Leach, or the polished guitar work of Weller and fellow guitarist Graham “Pin” Pinney; every single layer of SikTh’s music shines brightly and loudly here.
Now, as a very big fan of their esteemed second record, I do understand the complaints longtime followers have that ‘The Future In Whose Eyes?‘ sounds too polished – some may even adhere to it the misguided term of “over-produced” – and that it doesn’t carry the same… unstable sonic characteristic of their early day releases. But this ain’t 2006 anymore (insert *current year argument* here), and if SikTh dropped an album that was of the same sonic quality of their preceding record, those very same people would merely bitch and moan that such a new release was just of subpar, “demo” quality.
To be fair, the listeners saying such things have most likely only heard the album’s currently released three singles – just one-quarter of the actual full record. So if you are one such fan and you’re reading this review, all I can say is to you: just wait until June 2nd. This new SikTh record will blow you away.
And if you’re a newbie to the band, it’s time to educate yourself.
At the very high risk of negating all of my above review, SikTh’s ‘The Future In Whose Eyes?’ can be summed up with but six words: all hail to the kings, baby.
2. Century of the Narcissist
3. The Aura
4. The Ship has Failed
5. Weavers Of Woe
6. Cracks Of Light
7. Golden Cufflinks
8. The Moon’s Been Gone For Hours
9. Riddles Of Humanity
10. No Wishbones
11. Ride The Illusion
12. When it Rains