Review Summary: Is it future, or… is it past?
When I reviewed Opacities
back in 2015, I was grudgingly but deeply optimistic about SikTh's future. With the possibility of any music increasingly unlikely with every calendar page that flipped up after Death of a Dead Day
– which, to be fair, what an album to go out on – Opacities
was almost too good to be true, a short-and-sweet EP that took all SikTh's best qualities and revived them for a scene which SikTh had helped to create, and which had stagnated in their wake. Revived them in a way that, two years and one new album on, is starting to feel more and more like just compressing them into digestible, bite-sized, user-friendly chunks.
The Future in Whose Eyes?
sounds like a tribute band doing a really good SikTh impersonation, a carefully crafted facsimile that just about
holds up until you're up close and the cracks in the paint start to show. And believe me, there are cracks. Mikee's spoken word solo ventures – once a hilarious, creepy treat, now a thing you know will happen eventually and kind of have to sit through, and hey, this time around we get three for the price of none! - have started to feel more formulaic than earned. His ridiculous ability to do the voices of about two thousand people at once is completely wasted on the whole album, in favour of basically going back and forth between a mid-range nu-metal yell and an annoying budget Australian accent (honestly, "When It Rains" sounds like a knockoff Nick Cave writing a sequel to "Fitter Happier"). Joe, or 'new guy who's not Justin' has a decent voice, but it's immediately clear he could never carry a song like "Peepshow" or "In This Light", those entirely necessary breaths of beautiful, over-dramatic air. On the whole, Joe's forgettable interjections into the songs make him come across less a member of the band than a guy they brought in to sing in the bits where Mikee had to catch breath.
foreshadowed a lemon-scented fresh SikTh with ultra-modern sensibilities, extending/devolving their original fascination with environmental decay – remember "When Will the Forest Speak?" Hard not to miss, isn't it? – into the kind of all-encompassing "man, how bad is society
" writing that tries to pass for political commentary a lot these days. The EP kind of pulled it off, because the songs were really good and the runtime was short, but across The Future In Whose Eyes?
's patience-trying, incessantly mid-tempo duration, you get beat around the head with their new-found wokeness so often you'll end up sounding like one of Mikee's animal impersonations on The Trees Are Dead...
. Meaningless snippets of half-commentary like 'money makes the world go round/they weave the web without a sound' present themselves without an ounce of self-awareness, with the blackly comic sadsack humour of songs like "How May I Help You?" and "Such the Fool" barely a speck in the rearview mirror. Everyone in the band can still beat the crap out of their instruments, undoubtedly, but what does that matter when you're playing in a shop front window and the audience are mannequins?
I'm tempted to say that SikTh's first two albums were an anomaly – the kind of once-in-a-lifetime thing that only happens when an inventive, talented band hire a semi-demented preacher/shaman/voiceover artist as their frontman, which to be fair is a pretty damn once-in-a-lifetime event. But it just isn't entirely true. The real SikTh, the SikTh of both past and future are bubbling under the surface, chaotic and lovely, stupid and brilliant, hungry to break out and growl and scream about Yetis and skies of millennium night. There's just a unexceptional support act starting the show. They look like them, play like them, to a point they even sound like them, but don't be fooled – the real act is waiting in the wings.