SikTh: Death of a Dead Day
Did I just start my first review with the "The skinny"?
Yes. Yes I did.
Anyway, SikTh were a British progressive metal band, largely known for not being very well known at all, and disbanded soon after releasing what was only their second album. Today, they've been saved from near obscurity due to one important fact:
Both albums are fucking awesome.
Popular modern metal bands making a stir in metal circles such as Protest the Hero and Periphery owe a lot of their sound to SikTh, with the former going so far as to wear their t-shirts every other gig, so they've undergone a sort of resurgence recently.
With that, It's time to delve the album itself.
The opening track, Bland Street Bloom, starts with a slow swell of A Capella, which serves to lull you into the eye of the storm. And the near 6 minutes of metal that follows is some storm indeed. Extremely low tuned guitars hammer out a filthy riff, sprinkled with even odder guitar fills, all wrapped in a complex time signature designed to bewilder and entice in equal measure. The vocals only add to the strangeness, with two singers often singing in tandem, the sound is often hugely dense, and at times overwhelming. The chorus which follows is almost a sort of respite, with a straightforward melody, and accompanied by the same haunting vocals which opened the track.
From here, the intensity builds, the guitars adding increasingly complex and brilliant fills to spice it up, until the song seems to reach critical mass, whipping out a crushing breakdown, before rising again to a near anthemic section - or at least it would be anthemic if it didn't just sound trippy as hell instead, lacing more weird vocal harmonies over discordant, yet very measured guitars. Then it's back for one more chorus with the lead guitar seeming to up the ante again and a sudden stop.
Then it's time to take a breath.
Now, stop making the rest of us guitarists look bad, ya talented prick.
Analysing the opening song in detail gives a good impression of how listening to SikTh sounds. Everything is seemingly chaotic, compex riffs give way to more complex riffs and otherworldly harmonies, as if concocted by a mad scientist to drive you insane in as short a time as possible.
Rest assured though, Dillinger Escape Plan this is not. It's not all frenetic mathy noodling; there's method to the madness, and nearly every track ticks on by at a reasonable mid tempo, leaving plenty of time to digest all the sound bamboozling your ears. The riffs all have clear melodies to them, weird as they may be, and on repeated listens, it all makes sense. Of course that's how it should have been done, and imagining it any other way becomes impossible.
It should be noted that the vocals are the most contested point here: Mikee Goodman being best described as mix between Nick Cave and Doctor Insano, and alongside the more traditional stylings of Justin Hill it's and odd match to say the least.
Actually, a metal band with Doctor Insano would be a great idea.
I'd buy it. Would you buy it? Yeah, you would.
But even if you don't like the vocals (even though like much of the rest of the album, they grew on me), there's a lot more to sink your teeth into. Many songs show a multitude of styles, with the relaxed In this light forgoing most of the complex structures in other songs, focusing on a strong vocal melody with the instruments only serving to compliment in the most basic way. Or the supremely melodic guitar riffs which open When the moment's gone, slithering ethereally in the verses, before coming to a taut mid section which builds melodic tension excellently. There's even time for a spoken word interlude, Mermaid slur, with Mikee extolling the virtues of hollow skies, baked beans and fish fingers. Or something. Honestly I've no idea what the hell he's going on about, but it does sound cool.
Maybe he's just saying he needs a shower.
To sum it up, Death of a Dead day is a fantastically strange and wonderful album, and very much deserves its influential status in modern prog metal. You'd be a chump to miss out if metal is your cup of tea, and even if metal isn't your cup of tea, and merely your cup of instant coffee, you should check it out anyway. There's a plenty of melodic moments that temper the crazed fervor, and the album is a perfectly balanced whole because of it.
Bland street bloom, Where do we fall?, Way beyond the fond old river, When the Moment's gone.
Outright Villainy would also like to state that he was totally into SikTh before they were cool anyway.