SikTh at University Union in Leeds, UK: Event Review

SikTh emerged as a hugely inspirational band in the UK metal scene in 2002 after the release of their first EP, Let the Transmitting Begin. The effect was magnified by debut full-length album, The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild, which showcased remarkable levels of individual talent, woven through complex song structures that never compromised on groove or melody. This technically challenging, sonically mesmerising music transcended the UK scene at the time and inspired a new wave of experimental metal bands. SikTh called it a day in 2008, a year after the release of sophomore album Death of a Dead Day, which for many was far too soon in the band’s career.

After reuniting for a surprise appearance at this year’s Download Festival in the UK, SikTh announced a full UK tour: a prospect to tempting to miss. Judging by the looks on the faces of the crowd just before the band took to the stage, I wasn’t the only one having excitable, nostalgic flashbacks. Any SikTh fan remembers their first time they saw the band live; hearing the complexity of the instrumentation is impressive on record, but seeing it come alive on stage is something else entirely. As soon as the intro to set opener “Bland Street Bloom” pounded through the speakers, the memories came flooding back.

Stepping onto the stage in a venue where every square inch of floor is covered with fans, all highly anticipating the return of a band well known for being one of the best live acts in UK alternative music, having not played together for six years, must have been a daunting prospect. If the band felt any pressure, it certainly didn’t show; the performance opened at an impressively high level and remained as consistent throughout as the wide smile on guitarist Dan Weller’s face. The musicians were as tight as ever, their timing locked as tightly as a reunion hug that doesn’t want to end; an achievement multiplied by the complexity of their music and the six year hiatus.

The hour-long set, which contained an evenly weighted mix of both albums, concluded with an encore of “Pussyfoot” and “Skies of Millenium Night,” the latter being SikTh’s signature way of closing a show. Its mesmerising three-way guitar tapping section delivered a level of ambience and atmosphere that united the whole room as we stood entranced by the ability of the band one more time. This material is now eleven years old, but it still sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did when it was first released. It’s a reminder of the hole left by SikTh’s departure and a realisation that no band since has found a way to fill it. Vocalist Mikee Goodman previously commented that the band has always intended to write a third album, but for now other projects take priority. After seeing and hearing how fantastic the band still sound together, now may be the time to rethink those priorities.