Sound — 9
Since the dawn of time (or perhaps the mid 2000's, it's been a bit of a blur), many in the metal world have wondered when the glorious return of our lord and masters SikTh would take place.
For it was always a certainty given how popular the djent genre has become these past few years. Some history: along with Meshuggah, SikTh are considered the second most important precursor to the genre. Combining an early 2000's hardcore base with complex riffs, technical and often charmingly dissonant forays into "the innovative" and a unique dual vocalist setup that hasn't been convincingly duplicated since. Starting with their 2003 release (yes, it is that old) release "The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait For Something Wild" (yes, it is that long) that shook up the underground progressive scene something fierce and 2006's "Death of a Dead Day" absolutely crushing any idea of expectation, they unfortunately ceased to be in 2007.
But now we've been given a very abrupt glimpse back into the world of SikTh and if there was a short way of summing everything up, it's as if they never left.
"Opacities" does exactly what a follow-up album should do: pushes forward on an established, unique sound in unheard directions. Granted, this is only a 6 track release but hey, new SikTh is new SikTh.
Starting off with "Behind the Doors," immediately we're thrown back into the alarming and jarring feel of "DOADD." Detailed, ultra precise and yet compelling as hell because of all the swaps between the darkly melodic and the outright cacaphonic, the sweeping, epic chorus that breaks up the momentum in true SikTh fashion takes things out of reality before the whole thing coalesces into an impressively detailed breakdown.
The individual tracks are all very strong in their own righte. For instance, "Philistine Philosophies" breeds the mood and roiling anger of "Sanguine Seas of Bigotry" with the redemptive chaos of "Bland Street Bloom," letting us end up with a rather chaotic but ultimately melancholic effigy of the modern music world.
It wouldn't be a SikTh album without both a ballad and a spoken word poetry piece. Or at least, SikTh's very twisted take on both of those concepts. "Tokyo Lights" fills the same place as "When Will the Forest Speak" and "Mermaid Slur," a deeply impassioned and ominous performance by Mikee Goodman. This is the most ethereal and terrifying of all three and it's almost guaranteed to move you in some way.
"Days Are Dreamed" fills the ballad spot, and in true SikTh fashion, is not going to let you in gently. Although beautifully melodic (in a vein similar to "El Manana" by Gorillaz) the dreamy, ambient guitar parts harmonize with the dread-inducing chord movement to produce this woe-fueled and personal closing to the album.
Lyrics — 9
Part of SikTh's charm has always been the two vocalists of the group, Justin Hill and Mikee Goodman. Combined together, they produce a near-scat like, rapid fire delivery of unhinged and characterful vocal bursts. Justin's voice has always been the more "familiar" sounding, harking back to their early days metalcore roots, while Mikee has always been the more "wild" sounding, having the overall presence of an insane hobo with a shotgun.
Time has been kind in this case, as both dudes do what they do best without a single lapse in quality deliveries. If anything, the more back-to-reality vibe of "Opacities" has really allowed the buried, deranged menace of Mikee and the soulful sorrow of Justin to come through.
Lyrically, SikTh have always been an observational, "real issues" sort of band, although not the obvious ones such as politics or current events. They have a more Sartre-esque view of the world, analysing the day to day of the world and offering pointing out exactly whats wrong with it. Previous examples include "Bland Street Bloom" which dealt with the highly grey, soulless implications of any given high street and "Pussyfoot" which very harshly looks upon the herd mentality of the unthinking population.
"Opacities" follows suit, with aforementioned tracks like "Philistine Philosophies" and "Under the Weeping Moon" being biting condemnations. "Under the Weeping Moon" in particular for it combines both the subjects of "Pussyfoot" and "Bland Street Bloom" together.
At the end of this album, it would not be out of place to do a bit of honest self-reflection on your place in the world.
Overall Impression — 10
In fairness, even a smaller EP release would've been enough. This mini-album not only stays true to SikTh but it brings in a freshness to progressive music as a whole, a unique band with its own untouchable legacy completely obliterating any expectations placed upon it.
Songs to look out for: try the whole thing, it's short and snappy enough. For quicker listening "Philistine Philosophies," "Under the Weeping Moon."