Review Summary: SikTh prove that British metal can be original, innovative and technical without sounding uninspired and boring. Their debut album showcases brilliance and at times utter insanity - a worthy purchase for any fan of technical music.
When it comes to the modern British metal scene, to be honest, there is not really a huge amount to offer. Please note the use of the word 'modern' - everyone knows that Maiden is an exceptional British talent but what I am getting at is today's metal. Sure, you can say "what about Bullet For My Valentine
? They are pretty hardcore!". The fact is, I think BFMV blow - and they blow hard. Of course, from Scotland there is Mendeed
, whom are a fantastic band. Nevertheless, aside from that, there really are not that many truly outstanding metal acts from the UK...
This is what brings me away from an almost unrelated intro to talk about what I think is the one of the best metal bands around at the moment. I am of course referring to the band SikTh
The Trees Are Dead and Dried Out...
was the band's first major release and helped them on the way to establishing themselves as the forerunners of technical, crazy metal. Since then, they have released the equally impressive Death of a Dead Day
and toured extensively around the UK and so forth, wowing unsuspecting concert-goers with frenetic, bizarre riffs, complex song arrangements and an almost schizophrenic vocal attack. In terms of technicality, the band are right on top of their game - guitarists Dan Weller and Pin write some truly unique riffs and incorporate some wonderful techniques into their playing, such as the tasteful use of two handed tapping. Dan 'Loord' Foord is an extremely competent drummer who utilizes all of his kit to good effect, throwing in some intricate fills and beats that would puzzle a fair number of drummers out there. For once, the bass is a massive plus point - James Leach is an awesome bassist and never sticks to the conventional methods of playing root notes and simplistic fills. His presence in the band is great and he really adds a lot to the band's overall sound. The vocals come courtesy of not one but two band members. Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill attack the listener with alternating vocal lines, switching between growls, shrieks, screams and clean singing whilst always staying interesting and original.
The album opens up with Scent of the Obscene
. Quite simply, this song epitomizes everything the band is about - technicality, juxtaposition between clean/heavy sections and altogether just a fresh and unique spin on the metal genre. The song opens up with some noise before a cool slap bass line courtesy of James sends us into the bulk of the song. We are then introduced to an interesting guitar riff utilizing plenty of hammer ons and bizarre timings before the vocals kick in. SikTh
's vocal attack is one of the band's trademarks - it sounds utterly chaotic, with Mikee and Justin screaming back and forth, trading vocal lines effortlessly. As the song progresses, we are greeted with a fantastic catchy chorus featuring some great clean singing from Justin and a fantastic melodic break which has some brilliant tapping sections.
continues the album in the same vein - the song is heavier and the guitar riffs just as frenetic. Mikee and Justin roar and scream insane lyrical lines back and forth. One of the main things to notice is just how technical the guitar riffs are - after what is a rather simple introduction, the song piles in more and more sublime riffs that incorporate so much more than the average metal band could ever hope for. Hold My Finger
is one of my favourite tracks from the album - it fades in with yet another odd tapping riff before launching into an awesome groove. The pace of the song is frantic but the song twists and turns in all directions, providing some wonderful bass work and an awesome set of drum fills at the end.
Skies of Millennium Night
is an insane barrage of vocal schizophrenia and complex instrumentation. Again, it is another of the album's hihglights, showcasing weird and wonderful riffs and a simply epic outro - a three part harmonization of bass and two guitars, all of whom are playing a wonderfully melodic tapping section. It sounds almost video-game like (not in a DragonForce way).
This is where the album begins to falter slightly - after the pleasant piano piece that is Emerson (Pt.1)
, we are greeted with what is certainly not a bad track but it is a very different song to what the listener has just accustomed themselves too. Peep Show
features vocals and lyrics exclusively by Justin. There's no denying the fact that this guy has a beautiful singing voice and fantastic range. But for me, the band just isn't the same without Mikee throwing in his unpredictable vocal shenanigans into the mix. The song showcases the band's more melodic side - the guitar work is relatively simple but sounds great, as with the rest of the instruments. Things begin to get interesting again with the title track, which an all-out bombardment of the senses. The guitarwork raises up a couple of notches, as does the rhythm section, with both vocalists screaming their lungs out. The outro of the song is hugely bizarre and always gets me - Mikee and Justin go crazy, making a variety of unorthodox sounds and noises amongst decipherable words such "scream", "swim" and "spin".
The album's next three tracks are undoubtedly the album's weak point. The Nick Cave cover of the song Tupelo
is a good cover but it just does not fit with the album in my opinion. Can't We All Dream?
is simply filler in my opinion - it doesn't ruin the album but it certainly doesn't add anything to the album. The second part of Emerson is relaxing nonetheless but not anything important - altogether, the middle section comprises of over fifteen minutes of material which really is not that interesting.
However, the album returns to sensational form with the exceptional How May I Help You?
which features some of the most mind-boggling guitar riffs on the record and a great rhythm section to boot. The lyrics and vocals are flat out crazy, telling the story of "a little man named Rod who didn't have a mind of his own". The accompanying video for the song is also highly memorable and definitely worth a watch if you like laughing at random and bizarre song concepts. (If You Weren't) So Perfect
and Such the Fool
are two excellent songs, the latter featuring some absolutely hilarious lyrics and trademark SikTh
craziness. The final track of the album is not so much a song but more of a spoken piece performed by Mikee. The poem is actually highly enjoyable and a welcome closer to an excellent album.
Overall, The Trees Are Dead and Dried Out...
is an exceptional debut by the band. It encompasses everything the band has to offer - unrivalled originality, very accomplished musicianship and a large amount of the bizarre. Whilst the album does drag slightly on occassions and their sophomore effort is a lot more consistent, this record is a worthy addition to any metal fan's collection. If you are looking for something fresh and truly innovative, then SikTh
are a great band to look to. As far as British metal goes, it doesn't get a whole lot better than this.
Scent of the Obscene
Hold My Finger
Skies of Millennium Night
Wait For Something Wild
How May I Help You?