GIG REVIEW: Sikth, Exist Immortal & Valis Ablaze Live at Sub 89, Reading
Sikth has been incredibly influential, and I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that the support bands tonight are some of the many, many bands who’ve been inspired by their technical mastery and chaotic songwriting. Their 2017 release ‘A Future In Whose Eyes’, their first in eleven years, was an incredible return to action and for most of us, it would be our first chance to see the new songs played live.
Before that though, we had two support bands to get us warmed up. Valis Ablaze do a great job at that, and by the end of their set, the crowd has swelled. The band plays a style of modern metal which mixes crunchy riffs with beautiful ethereal soundscapes and despite having not heard them before I came away a fan. While the whole band played well the vocals of Phil Owens were particularly impressive. With a debut album coming out in early April, Valis Ablaze are worth keeping an eye on.
Next up are Exist Immortal who instantly up the energy crowd with their powerful blend of technical riffs and tight, focused songwriting. This is a band who clearly know what they’re doing and love doing it, and one look at the crowd shows that they’re enjoying it too. “Follow Alone” stands out as a song that’s up there with the best of the best for the genre and I expect the band to continue climbing in popularity.
After two excellent sets from the support bands the pressures on for Sikth to keep up the quality. Fortunately, there’s no chance of disappointment tonight and as the band dives straight into opener ‘Philistine Philosophies’ the audience, who have been fairly reserved so far, erupts into a circle pit. The dual vocal attack of Mikee Goodman and Joe Rosser have an unmatched level of chaotic ferocity, and they both perform excellently tonight.
While we’re on the subject of Joe Rosser, who replaced Justin Hill in 2016(who was in the audience tonight and is still on good terms with the band), it’s worth mentioning that this was my first time seeing Sikth with him and I was not disappointed. It’s clear he knows replacing Justin is no easy task, in his own word he’s got “big boots to fill.” Fortunately, the band has made a wise decision. Rosser is a capable vocalist and different enough to Hill that the songs take on a new but just as good sound, rather than a sub-par imitation, which is too often the case with many metal bands who opt for replacement singers who sound as similar as possible.
The songs from the latest album, ‘A Future In Whose Eyes’, fit in perfectly with the rest of the set which is no mean feat after so long without a new release. Still, it’s the classics that get the biggest reactions and the number of people, many of whom were likely still kids when it first released, singing back the words to “Bland Street Bloom” tonight encapsulates why Sikth are timeless and one of the very best live bands playing right now.