*Sounds From The Underground*
Band: Sleep Token
Label: Basick Records
Genre: Progressive Metal, Post Metal
Release Date: 21st July, 2017
The American author Julia Cameron once wrote that “mystery is at the heart of creativity”. This is an ethos that plenty of bands have taken over the years and have used as a vehicle to create some truly unique art. Modern day examples are Nu-metal titans Slipknot who play behind their themed masks (in their earlier years this was to hide their identities from the public, not so much nowadays), Ghost who have taken on a classic catholic style in their costume. The band has but one recognisable character, dressed in religious gowns and boasting a demonic Pope-influenced persona named Papa Emeritus (albeit, there have been a number of different incarnations. All of whom have remained anonymous). We have even seen popular music artists such as the dance act Daft Punk using masks and costume to hide themselves from the public gaze (we now know their identities, but they rarely grant interviews to press). The idea is simple, people don’t like not knowing things, they fear the unknown and it creates intrigue, an almost morbid fascination with subject.
Enter Sleep Token. This group of musicians do not refer to themselves as a band. Rather “a musical end of a sprawling global cult that worships the deity of ‘Sleep’, an ancient being that is given power by those who believe”.
Intrigued yet? I thought so…
The collective musicians do not name themselves, but go by Roman numerals in order to differentiate them. It is only their cloaked and masked leader/front person is given a title and that is merely Vessel. The mask that Vessel wears is covered in markings and pain that portray ‘ST’ in ancient runes. The group give very little away about their history and coming together other than the fact that Vessel encountered Sleep in a dream and was led by a promise of glory and magnificence and as a result was endowed with a voice not of this Earth. So with a background shrouded in mystery and cryptic messages of ancient Gods, what music have the band (I know I’m not supposed to refer to the group as a ‘band’ but for the sake of ease and my perpetual laziness I feel I am going to have to at certain points) been charged with creating for this release?
‘Two’ opens with the multi genre-spanning grand opus of ‘Calcutta’. We are treated to shamelessly pop-influenced piano/guitar riffs that provide the perfect back drop for the wonderfully melodic, strangely soothing vocals provided by Vessel (and some of the nameless band members surrounding him during the intricate harmonies) which seem to offer more to fans of Bon Iver and Ben Howard fans than your typical Metal fan. The clean, reverb soaked instruments serve tremendously well in delivering melody in their own right whilst still managing to have a haunting and chilling effect on the listener. The drums are used sparingly in the first two thirds of the song, with simple; quiet beats being used merely to help carry the song along rather than becoming a main focal point throughout. Towards the latter stages to song rapidly changes gears and throws the listener head first in to Meshuggah-esque brutality. The guitars sounds larger than life and the bass rumbles away in the background with the song still managing to maintain some of the songs canorous qualities which make the shift in tempo and style a lot easier for the listener to digest.
The second instalment of the ‘Two’ EP is the song ‘Nazareth’ which has been previously released as a single and used to promote this extended play. Once again this song leans heavily upon the bands ambient, melancholic clean segments and the wonderfully unique vocal capabilities that are on show from all of the voices used within the group. As you can imagine, as this track has been used as the spearhead for the promotion and release of this body of work here ‘Nazareth’ is a lot more straight forward and easy to sink your teeth in to. All of the hallmarks of the Sleep Token style are still here. The musicianship is to a high standard yet reserved for effect. The vocals once again take the centre stage here, with Vessel appearing to really excel and earn his right as the main focal point for this band of worshippers. Once again the song shifts dramatically from sombre sounding, ambience into a wall of sonic might that bands such as Deftones or Leprous would be proud of. The sound here is monumentally huge and we have the wonderful guitar tones and spot on production to thank for that coupled with the fact that these boys have the kind song writing chops that you would expect to see from a band a number of albums in to their career.
The final segment of this tremendous sophomore effort is the track ‘Jericho’. This song has all of the characteristics that the band have carefully crafted on this release whilst still containing a phenomenal degree of originality in its own right. Rather than sticking to the melancholic arrangements of the previous tracks the group have opted for a jazz influenced tone from the ever present keys. It has to be said that this new tone fits in even better with the heavy, low tuned guitars and is sure to bring the crowd to life when Sleep Token decide to bring their cinematic take on modern metal music to a live setting.
Overall I would say that Sleep Token have created something truly unique here. ‘Two’ succeeds in creating even more mystique and intrigue in this fascinating collective of musicians, whilst still providing plenty to appease the pallet of any music listener. Is this straight up metal? No. But do we care when the music is this adventurous and grandiose in its delivery? Certainly fucking not.
Total Playing Time: 17:46
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