2017 has not been a banner year for the tech metal scene in terms of new music, but the one notable exception is a massive one, the first new album from SIKTH in over a decade. With their last tour of the UK being in a support slot for TRIVIUM prior to the album’s release, a headline run gives the dedicated a chance to see these pioneers in their natural environment.
Going on so soon after doors the room is barely half full for PRESS TO MECO, but they don’t let it bother them in the slightest, instead filling their short set with energy and personality. There’s a relation to tonight’s headliners in SIKTH but they fit most alongside bands like ARCANE ROOTS, rock bands with technicality and angular musicianship as part of their make-up but with a focus on sweet melodies and accessible songcraft over balls out heaviness and polyrhythms. That being said, there are still riffs aplenty, with a certain bounce to them and a specific section at the end of one song coming straight out of the end of GOJIRA’s Remembrance. As a three-piece all three members contribute vocals which always manage to glide atop their songs with finesse, and they receive a fairly positive response from those have gotten into the building early.
DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL meanwhile have spent the last decade being one of the most underrated bands in the UK. Their embellishment of crunching metalcore with ambient music and post-rock dynamism has always set them out as a unique and forward-thinking band within our national scene, and yet they’ve never truly received the success and acclaim that they’ve deserved for it. This has unfortunately led to some periods of lacking productivity, but happily this year DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL have kicked back into the swing of things. Having celebrated the 10th anniversary of their debut album A Fragile Hope earlier this year, original vocalist Ed Gibbs has rejoined the band but not outed his replacement Paul Green who remains alongside him, meaning they now possess a two-pronged vocal attack with the two men prowling each side of the stage. The remnant in the setlist from those anniversary shows is the devastating Awaiting the Flood, a bulldozer of a track that sees DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL at their most barbaric and cavernous. Devastator and Time from the band’s one release with Green on vocals so far in the BELONG ≠ BETRAY EP are some of the best songs in their catalogue and see Gibbs joining Green on his songs for the first time rather than vice versa, and a closing End of Days with its gargantuan ending crescendo sends things truly skywards. The two frontmen are visibly pleased by the dedicated few in the front rows singing their words back to them, and with the band now reinvigorated after a great year, hopefully there will be some new material finally on the horizon.
Since their initial reunion headlining the fourth stage at Download Festival three years ago, it feels like SIKTH have gotten at least some of the props they deserved the first time around. With the djent movement starting to explode just as they initially split up in 2008, the techniques and polyrhythmic depth charges that SIKTH helped pioneer alongside MESHUGGAH were suddenly everywhere, and disciples of the movement scholarly enough know where that came from. The room is packed out by the time they grace the stage tonight and the response they get is emphatically great. They at one point joke about the crowd being so much better than on the TRIVIUM tour last time they were in Manchester, but they are definitely noticeably more buoyed up and look like they are enjoying themselves far more as a result of the energy throughout the room. They’re still the furthest thing from being rockstars, but with this tour ending at London’s KOKO, SIKTH are in the best shape they’ve arguably ever been in.
What’s slightly disappointing is how nostalgic this show is. For the scene which they helped birth, the first SIKTH album in over a decade is a big deal, and The Future is Whose Eyes? is up to anything they’ve released in the past, with arguably bigger hooks and more instantaneous grooves than they’ve ever had without sacrificing an inch of the technical wizardry and hyperactive character that defines their sound. Clean vocalist Joe Rosser absolutely owns his parts on The Aura and especially the grandiose and stately Golden Cufflinks, and long-time frontman Mikee Goodman comments on how good it feels for them to be playing new songs for the first time in a while. It’s a little baffling then that these are the only two songs from their new album that they play. That London KOKO date sees them playing their second album Death of a Dead Day in full, and in reality that bleeds over to tonight as well as they play ten of the twelve tracks that record holds. The hardcore fanbase laps it up, relishing the chance to climb over each other to belt out those words, and this marks the first time some of these songs like Summer Rain and Way Beyond the Fond Old River have ever been played amazingly. Goodman’s bizarre vocal tics and the almost character acting within his vocal style are as engaging and unique as ever, and the band are incredibly tight and visceral in their playing, those intricate but turbulent rhythms churning forth from the stage in unrelenting fashion. It’s a triumphant night for SIKTH, but it’s a shame that their most recent achievements are swept under the carpet in favour of past glories.
Check out our photo gallery from the night’s action in Manchester from Jordan Darby here: