ARTIST: SLEEP TOKEN
LABEL: SPINEFARM RECORDS
WORDS: SEAN HUBBARD
In the age of the internet it is hard to truly keep anything secret any more, but Sleep Token have managed to retain their aura of mystery through a combination of masks and their dedication to the ancient deity they refer to only as Sleep. Religious imagery is nothing new in metal, but their unique take on faith has captivated people across the country, culminating most recently in a sold out show at London’s legendary Underworld.
The EPs One and Two tended to follow a similar formula of allowing frontman Vessel’s voice to shine over quiet instrumentals before a big breakdown hits, which led some to dismiss the band as gimmicky and repetitive, however on Sundowning the band show off their songwriting chops as they instead commit fully to using Vessel’s unique voice, beginning with the beautiful ‘The Night Does Not Belong To God,’ before introducing the riffs with ‘The Offering;’ a track which has drawn the inevitable comparisons to Meshuggah that most technical metal does since it was released several months ago as part of their unique marketing strategy for Sundowning. This second track also proves that Vessel is not just a pretty voice, demonstrating his metal credibility with brutal screams over a dense breakdown that recently caused a huge mosh pit at the Underworld all in the name of praising Him.
“on Sundowning the band show off their songwriting chops as they instead commit fully to using Vessel’s unique voice.”
‘Levitate’ combines Vessel’s voice with slowly heavier riffs, until it becomes a total technical riff celebration towards the end, but it is ‘Dark Signs’ that is one of the most intriguing tracks on Sundowning. The synths really come into play, and there is a real electro vibe, interesting on a metal record. It is rare for a metal band to have a song described as a groover and a potential dance anthem but this is what Sleep Token have created, all without sacrificing the metal origins of the record – something completely unique.
Several of the later tracks on the album; ‘Higher,’ ‘Give,’ ‘Say That You Will’ and ‘Drag Me Under’ are all as “typical” Sleep Token songs as is possible – they tend to follow a system of quiet intros leading into increasingly louder and heavier outros, but all in their own individual ways, however none of these songs would have been particularly out of place on either of Sleep Token’s earlier EPs, as to satisfy fans who preferred that style of their song writing. Despite this they do showcase their softer side on the mostly acoustic song ‘Take Aim,’ which has Vessel providing an impressive falsetto over a beautiful piano base. However there is also something here for fans of heavy as fuck metalcore, with ‘Gods’ providing three and a half minutes of balls to the wall breakdowns, that could almost be mistaken as a Loathe track.
“by far one of the most interesting bands in the world today and not just because of their aesthetic”
The album concludes with ‘Blood Sport;’ a song that has been in Sleep Token’s live repertoire since they first began playing live several years ago, and is one that fans have been desperate to hear a studio recording of ever since. While its name suggests a heavier track, it in fact begins as one of the slower on the record, detailing the difficulty of love, as Vessel sings: “I make loving you a blood sport that I can’t win.” It appears to discuss a difficult relationship, and the complexities of love, as the rest of the band join in, before erupting into a beautiful cacophony of riffs, and then concludes as the album began, with Vessel singing alone over a piano.
Sleep Token are by far one of the most interesting bands in the world today and not just because of their aesthetic. Vessel possesses one of the best and most versatile voices in metal, and brings a sense of beauty to even the harshest of songs that makes a listener want to Praise Him. This is an experimental project that has certainly paid off.