First up on tonight’s menu was Press To MECO, a London based 3-piece. After watching a couple of their YouTube videos, I wasn’t convinced that their slightly radio-friendly sound would fit well with the rest of the bands playing, but I’m glad to say I was proven wrong. They do have slight pop tendencies with harmonised vocals between all three members and catchy choruses, but these are then interspersed with what can only be described as filthy riffs. What didn’t seem to work for me on YouTube worked like a charm live, and with a new album coming out next year, I’ll be keeping an ear out for them because I think they could so some really interesting things in the future.
After a swift changeover and a slightly protracted intro sequence, Devil Sold His Soul kicked into action. Now featuring two vocalists, with original band member Ed Gibbs picking up the mic again, DSHS present a more active presence on stage. Their energy can’t be faulted and there isn’t an inch of the stage they don’t cover while blasting through their set. And blasting is the correct term for while the band are loud and driving, the vocals are indistinguishable and just come across as random screaming. For my ears, it was a difficult listen, especially after the technically nuanced performance that came beforehand from Press To MECO.
I first encountered Sikth in 2004 when they supported Akercocke and they confused the hell out of me. Placed alongside Akercocke’s brand of black metal, Sikth’s prog-infused metal mentalism shouldn’t have worked, but it did and they picked up a new fan in me that night. Skip forward 13 years and after a hiatus and reunion, we’re ready to do it all again. Manchester’s Academy 3 venue is stuffed by the time the band hit the stage, opening with “Philistine Philosophies” from 2015’s Opacities EP. This song, along with a couple from this years’ The Future in Whose Eyes? record, are the only new songs to get an airing as this tour is more of a showcase of earlier material. In fact, Mikee states that they will be playing most of Death of a Dead Day (9 songs by my count) which is greeted by an appropriate roar of approval. There is a smattering of crowd surfers for the first few numbers but it’s the scream of “Pussyfoot” that really gets things going and a big, yet slightly disorganised, circle pit breaks out on the floor.
Sikth’s music comes across on record as immensely technical and it’s quite something to see guitarists Dan Weller and Graham “Pin” Pinney trading off solos with the speed and accuracy that they do. Add to that Dan Foord and James Leach’s metronome-like rhythm section and it’s hard to find fault, especially as this is the first night of the tour. At times Mikee and Joe’s vocals come across as quite harsh, but it seems necessary to lift them above the unrelenting volume coming from stage and to ensure they can be heard. It’s an engaging and energising performance all round, and even involves Mikee being carried around the venue, à la old school Angus Young, on the shoulders of a man-mountain called The Pit Troll. For anyone holding back on buying tickets, now is the time to go get them and especially if you live in London, as their show at Koko is the only one where they will be playing Death of a Dead Day in full.