SLEEP TOKEN, spearheaded by enigmatic masked frontman Vessel, are, to quote their Facebook page, “a masked, anonymous collective of musicians; united by their worship of an ancient deity crudely dubbed “Sleep”, since no modern tongue can properly express it’s name” with a musical vision to transcend the shallow limitations of genre to convey the full complex range of emotions that dwell within the deepest subconscious of all of us. SLEEP TOKEN do not make metal. They make music with metal elements in it.
Across these three spellbinding tracks the band fully delivers on their genre-blending promise, moving between light indie atmospherics and dark, MESHUGGAH-esque heaviness and covering most of the spectrum in between. What is really impressive is how they manage to unify their myriad of sounds into a single, cohesive atmosphere that wonderfully captures that strange, oscillating mix of blurry vagueness and surreal clarity usually found within dreams. The heavy, guitar-driven parts have a soft, fuzzy ferocity to them, that kind of dreamy heaviness that bands like DISPERSE do really well, and even the soft, synth and keyboard driven side radiates a subtle, alluring darkness.
SLEEP TOKEN‘s otherworldly sound enraptures the listener straight out the gate with Calcutta, a track that brilliantly reflects “the gift of dreams and the curse of nightmares” bestowed on humanity by Sleep. You don’t so much listen to the music as bathe in it. The increasingly ominous keyboard and synths radiate like deep chimes and throbbing heartbeats, over which floats Vessel’s mournful, folky vocals. His voice is a true singularity in the world of metal, and is just one example of SLEEP TOKEN‘s cross-genre appeal. He sounds like someone you would hear at Glastonbury rather than Download or Bloodstock, and yet throughout his voice flows along with the music perfectly. He conveys a sheer maelstrom of emotion in his wavering, trembling croon, and the effect is utterly arresting. The way the instruments and vocal melodies build on and wind between each other throughout the song, as in the whole album, is wonderful as well, particularly the use of guitar. Initially adding an extra layer of deep captivating fuzziness, the guitar returns during the last minute in an explosion of chugging djent thunder that, along with the vocals, sends the dreamy atmosphere into a nightmarish swirl.
The band’s hold on the listener only grows stronger with the first soft, reverberating notes of Nazareth, a track that combines ominous menace with staggeringly beautiful melancholy. Speaking to the listener on some deeper emotional level from within its seductively hypnagogic haze, the song seems to tell a tale of heartbroken revenge as Vessel croons captivatingly threatening lyrics like “I’ll see you when the wrath comes/Tonight” over the sinister rumble of the synths. The keyboards on this song are fantastic, demonstrating SLEEP TOKEN‘s ability to use instruments as layers of emotion, and interspersed with the heavy guitar suggest an undercurrent of grief, pain and introspective horror to the protagonist’s murderous rage. Further more, what sounds like the plucking of a mandolin goes a long way to add an extra level of musical and psychological tension. However, the song structurally is very similar to it’s predecessor and the djent returns at the end, it feels a bit tacked on, as if the band felt obligated to put it in, and slightly undermines the song’s impact.
The final track, Jericho, makes more of an effort at structural individuality, and merges the light and dark elements more, rather than shifting between them like the previous two, resulting in a more consistent sound. The inclusion of string instruments adds a really nice component to the atmosphere, which is comparatively lighter in tone after the intense darkness of Nazareth but still very dark in itself.
To conclude, SLEEP TOKEN pack an album’s worth of atmosphere into three tracks, crafting an enthralling, darkly phantasmagorical journey through the recesses of the human subconscious. If they can iron out the very minor weaknesses in their songwriting, between their sound and their awesome aesthetic this band are going to find themselves gaining an enormous fanbase.
Two is out now via Basick Records.
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