Live Review: Sikth and Heart Of A Coward – Koko Camden, London – 12/11/2014

The gravy train of reunions shows no sign of halting; it feels like a weekly occurrence that an oft-reminisced (or at least someone you’ve vaguely heard of) band reunites for another tour, hitting those in their mid-to-late-to-very-late twenties right in their wallets as they gather to get misty-eyed about the bands they adored “back in the day”. Hertfordshire tech-metallers SikTh were originally only meant to do a one-off gig for this year’s Download Festival, but that’s turned into a full UK tour, the last night of which your erstwhile reporter feeds back on, with further dates extending into the New Year. The most important question on everyone’s lips is can they still hack it?

Unfortunately, due to the haphazard service at the Mexican eatery I chose for a pre-gig bite I arrived too late to catch Idiom, so my first taste of action tonight came in the form of Heart Of A Coward. The Milton Keynes-based quintet trade in the sub-sect of metalcore known as “djent”, something SikTh are widely recognised to have helped create; the irony is not lost that when SikTh were first about, the NWOAHM scene was the latest craze, now they’re back amongst the fad they were progenitors of. Anyway, back to HOAC – their live show is amongst the slickest these eyes have ever seen, almost to the point where it feels like they could be miming, their dense riffage shearing through the speakers with studio-standard sheen and finesse. It’s no wonder “djent” is so popular amongst musicians; anything that’s so simplistic (most songs consist of one chord played no lower than the first three frets) but makes a sound so satisfying has got to be great fun to play, which shows in the band’s playful stage act, including synchronised pogoing/hunched headbanging between the vocalist and three guitarists. HOAC provide plenty of pit fodder but it’s a little one-paced to really make an impression – however, with rumours of huge upcoming support slots, it’s clear these Buckinghamshire boys are onto bigger and better things. (3/5)

When SikTh returned to the stage at Download Festival, though the magic was still there, it was clear there were some cobwebs to clear away; I’m happy to report that any possible gaps in quality have been completely eviscerated. As soon as the Hertfordshire mob rip into ‘Bland Street Bloom’, the band and the floor go apeshit, and a sold-out Koko is treated to a tour-de-force from one of the premier acts in modern British metal. Both albums are well represented, but it’s the material from ‘The Trees Are Dead And Dried Out, Wait For Something Wild’ that hold the most personal resonance, an emotion clearly shared by a sizeable amount of the room; when co-vocalist Justin Hill emerges on his own to sing the first album’s ‘Peep Show’, the years melt away into nothing and from what I could observe, tracks like ‘Pussyfoot’ and ‘Suffice’ (from their first EP) generate the biggest reactions of all in the pit.

The band that back Hill and the other vocalist Mikee Goodman are consummate professionals, plucking quite extraordinary sounds from their guitars and nailing everything like they’d never stopped. On some occasions, when you see bands you’d adored and fetishised as a teenager, you think “what was all that about then?”, but this is not the case with SikTh, who make a monstrous return to the live arena with this show, being filmed for an upcoming DVD. The question of if this tour is it for the sextet or if there is more in store remains to be answered, but those gathered at Camden’s enormous and grandiloquent Koko venue are certainly sated by what they’ve been served; even more encouragingly there seems to be people in attendance clearly too young to have seen them the first time around, meaning the appeal has spread beyond pure nostalgia. SikTh are back with an almighty bang; if you missed them the first time around, don’t hesitate if they tour again, because they’re every bit as incredible as they always were. (4.5/5)

Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore).

Photos by Connie Taylor Photography

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