Sound — 9
Like any band that is usually credited with pioneering an entire movement within a genre, there remains a certain mystique to UK experimental metallers SikTh. After having released two absolutely groundbreaking releases (2003's "The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild" and 2006's "Death of a Dead Day"), the band immediately took a nearly decade-long hiatus, during which time, nearly every new metal band coming out seemed to owe a little something to SikTh. Periphery, in particular, claimed an incredibly heavy SikTh influence, while shades of it could be detected in nearly every other progressive metal band to be part of the new "djent" movement. The band returned in 2013, and released their critically-acclaimed "Opacities" EP in 2015 to great fanfare. Personally, I thought "Opacities" was an incredible EP, whose only flaw was being too short. After the release of the EP, vocalist Justin Hill was replaced by Joe Rosser, and the release of the "No Wishbones" single was secured. And now, SikTh have released their third full-length album, their first since 2006, "The Future In Whose Eyes?"
With competition from so many imitators, SikTh may find themselves struggling a bit to maintain a sense of innovation and freshness in their music, but straight away in the opening track "Vivid", it's clear that this is a band content to keep doing what they do, at the best level that they can. Pummeling bass, drums and guitar give way to the dual vocal tag team of Joe Rosser and original vocalist Mikee Goodman. While Rosser has already had a fair amount of acclaim in his band Aliases, his vocal style fits SikTh's music quite well, making him a quite able replacement for Justin Hill, and his melodic vocals are a perfect counterpoint for Mikee's eccentric style. Guitarists Dan Weller and Graham "Pin" Pinney still absolutely shred their way through the record, with riffs and solos that suggest a fine line between finesse and chaos, and albeit with a bit less polyrhythmic interplay than their "djent" contemporaries.
James Leach's bass playing is a central feature on many of the album's tracks, particularly when he plays in his slap style, and Dan "Loord" Foord slams his way through the drum parts on this album as ably as any of the bigger names in the metal scene today. While many of the tracks are kind of typical for the band's style, without much change in the band's formula at all, there are still a fair deal of great moments on the record, whether it be the solo in "Vivid", the intro guitar line and spoken vocal in "The Aura", the "Diary of a Madman"-esque clean guitar break in "Weavers of Woe", a guest appearance from Spencer Sotelo of Periphery in the chorus of "Cracks of Light", the absolutely pummelling intro from "Riddles of Humanity"... these are all classic SikTh moments through and through. There are also some of SikTh's now-trademark spoken word tracks on the album, and they definitely evoke an atmosphere, though I can't help but crack up at Mikee Goodman's voice at points, for its sheer ridiculousness.
Perhaps lending a bit to the album's connection to the more modern imitators is the fact that the album was mixed and mastered by Adam "Nolly" Getgood of Periphery, and it's a pretty good mix. Dan Weller's production job is great on it, though I often feel like there's not really enough separation between the two vocalists in the mix, and some of Joe Rosser's harsh vocals kind of get lost in the mix. The writing is excellent as one would expect from the band, featuring enough technicality to keep the mathcore purists happy, while still emphasizing great melodies and epic choruses, and dare I say that many of the guitar solos on the album are quite tastefully done.
Lyrics — 9
With the crazy duality of Mikee Goodman's eccentric harsh vocals and Joe Rosser's melodic vocals, SikTh's vocals and lyrics definitely reflect a more interesting side of the metal scene. It's hard to really gather any distinct meaning from the lyrics, and many of them seem to be told from a first-person perspective, such as the lyrics for "Vivid": "Walking through the corridor again/I start to shiver now/I see a figure in the house/Now she is approaching me/What can I do for thee?/Can you find the bathroom?/Impossible mission/Where are we?/I thought you knew?/Who the fuck are you?/Oh no!", or the lyrics to "Ride the Illusion": "Do you need what you think you need?/Head first into the zombies feed/Keep on looking at the ground in front of you/You look like you're lost/Turn on your GPS!/Sign outside reads happy hour/But every face looks grey and dour/Underachieving and under exposed/Lacking any culture but the local sinking hole!".
The ills of society also get a mention in some of the songs, such as "Riddles of Humanity", which is about as close to a political statement as the band overtly makes on the record: "Character destruction for the entire whole world to see/Make sure the main focus is on negativity/The riddles of humanity there's really nothing like it/Spinning round in circles trying to seep within a wound". "Weavers of Woe" also focuses on this theme: "Like a monster as big as the moon/A formula in which they all consume/I now see the twisted legions lost in greed/And I see so many twisted demons on TV/Money makes their world go round/They weave their webs without a sound/Malice makes their world go round/They weave their webs without a sound".
Joe Rosser, being the newest member of the band, gets a fair deal of room to stretch his vocal talents on this record, and he does so quite ably. Those who may be worried that he will not be an adequate replacement for Justin Hill will have nothing to worry about on this record. And Mikee Goodman squawks and caws his way through this album like a seagull on steroids and psychedelics, which I wouldn't have any other way. His unique vocal performance is one of those things that makes SikTh SikTh.
Overall Impression — 9
"Opacities" was quite a comeback for the band, and no doubt many appetites will be whet by "The Future In Whose Eyes?". Their 2015 EP was a mere taste of what was to come for this record, and the band has done a wonderful job of balancing technicality and good songwriting in a manner that can only be uniquely SikTh. Rather than fail to impress in the light of so many imitators who latched on to SikTh's sound, the band competently comes back to show the rest of us how it's done. This is definitely one of the most impressive releases of 2017 for me so far, and an absolutely solid record from one of the most innovative and unique bands in metal/prog/mathcore/whatever you want to call it. It doesn't really mess with the SikTh formula too much, but it's also definitely a case of not fixing what isn't broken.
I patiently look forward to what SikTh has planned for us next.