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Akercocke & Sikth, Temple Bar Music Centre, Dublin, 9th January 2004

This had to be one of the strangest co-headlining tours ever. Bizarre metal innovators Sikth and Satan-friendly metalheads Akercocke, teaming up to go on the road together? Whoever put this together was on some very strange drugs at the time. What these two bands have in common is, well… not a lot actually, especially when it comes to fans. It's not the circles only cross paths briefly, but more like they are on two different sides of the page altogether.

Unfortunately, the very angry and very good Labrat had to pull out of their support slot on the night when one of their members had to be hospitalised. Distorted wishes him a quick recovery. Watford boys Sikth did not let this hold them back though from unleashing a lethal does of demolishing metal on the gathered faithful, the confused and the down-right uninterested. In other words, their fans, the people who came not knowing what to expect and Akercocke's fans.

Non-conformist riffs and schizophrenic rhythm patterns appeared to be flung together randomly, but watching the two guitarists stalk the stage shredding out split second virtuoso licks, you could not help but be impressed. At times, it was a wonder how they kept it all together as most of the songs are devoid of any recurring ideas. Song structure takes a backseat as exploratory, lightning quick ideas grab the steering wheel and threaten to careen off the mountaintop.

'Skies of millennium night', 'Scent of the obscene' and the crushing 'Pussyfoot' were thrown out early to an increasingly rabid pit. A few technical problems were noticeable, especially near the start where Mikee's vocals kept getting swamped in the mix. These were ironed out but the gremlins resurfaced again during 'How may I help you?', with the dual vocalists yelps, grunts and screams being shoved far into the background. A run through Iron Maiden's 'Wraithchild' soon put things back on track though, as did the fantastic 'Hold my finger'.

On the strength of tonight's performance, it is surprising that Sikth are not being talked about as one of the most exciting live bands to come out of England in years, especially in comparison to the awful headliners. The Devil may have all the best tunes, but he's not sharing any of them with Akercocke.

Ken McGrath.

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