ALBUM REVIEW: Sundowning (SLEEP TOKEN)
ALBUM: Sundowning // ARTIST: Sleep Token
Fiendishly anonymous collective Sleep Token have ascended to hypnotic new heights with their magnetic new album Sundowning creating a stunning stir of reverent ambience and governed heavy moments.
For the converted, Sleep Token need little introduction, but for the uninitiated the project consists of masked anonymous members united by the worship of an ancient deity roughly translated as 'Sleep' (as it is claimed no modern tongue can properly express its name). But this ain't no kooky cult version of Daft Punk, despite the eccentric backstory. Calling the musical creations conjured by Sleep Token doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the group's mentality - in fact, the group themselves describe their material as "rituals", and each track both sits alone and as part of a greater whole ranging from triumphant and uplifting high points to starkly penetrating personal battles. On paper what could translate as a fanatical gimmick is instantly knocked out of sight when you engage with a Sleep Token tune, and their upcoming new album Sundowning is a treasure trove of post rock-meets-low-tuned-metal with a touch of art-pop lapping on the surface.
Sundowning commences on a soft and tranquil note as The Night Does Not Belong To God weaves an immersive and boundless soundscape comprising haunting vocals, icy electronic tinges and cascading instrumentation that wraps you up in its mystical world. Next up, The Offering offers up the perfect accompaniment for when Stranger Things ever does a metal episode. Building from quiet beauty into denser textures and buzzing tones, it's here we first get a real taste at some of Sleep Token's heavier tendencies, with some full-blown metal mayhem closing out the track complete with techy riffs rounding out the bulkier soundscapes.
THE OFFERING (SLEEP TOKEN)
Levitate flutters in next, gifting a heart-wrenching ambient metal musical theatre ballad that visually flows as much as it sonically soars via its gripping simplicity. Sleep Token's frontman known only as Vessel is undoubtedly a significant talent, capable of brute power and restraint, with the latter weaving seamlessly here as the more modern production that kicks in near the end of the track. Following on, Dark Signs lives up to its namesake as it crafts a moody, modern journey. Trap tinges find their way here via oscillating electronic beats and noticeable lashes of autotune, while the telltale ambience and heftier moments ground the sharp shifts from wandering beyond concentration.
Throughout Sundowning there's a continual rise and fall of emotive surges and thundering textures, and Higher captures a bit of everything as slightly sinister undertones simmer and build beneath serene vocals before inevitably giving way to some grittier waters as Sleep Token take a leaf out of the TesseracT book and flip the dynamic floating bliss into some down and dirty djent. But just when you thought they'd firmly shifted into heavier gears, Take Aim jumps out in an almost indie-folk fashion, full of subdued jauntiness and sublime harmonies that culminate in a feel-good cinematic outing that would perfectly accompany the final scene of an indie rom-com when the guy sees *that* person through the crowd - the sun hits their face...and everything is right in the world.
HIGHER (SLEEP TOKEN)
The remaining album proves to be as varied as it's earlier tracks, with James Blake-esque synth pop odes (Give), melodic metal slaps (Gods), robotic lullabies (Sugar) and frothy soundscapes (Say That You Will). But just how are Sleep Token closing out their rituals? Penultimate track Drag Me Under leads the way with impassioned pianos leading into crystalline vocals and whispering airs, as dangerously stunning harmonies sweep to the edges of this sonic paradise, unimpeded by anything except their own soaring, swirling beauty. And it's actually this measured control that closes out Sundowning, with the fiercely named Blood Sport proving to hold some of the rawest moments yet, as Vessel belts lines like "I'm still your favourite regret // You're still my weapon of choosing" and "I want to be forgiven". As the crunchy beats build and the track erupts into an all-encompassing anthem overflowing with passion and pain but without the overbearing enmity that can so often accompany such themes.
Named for the at-times harrowing symptom often faced by those suffering from Alzheimer's diseas and some forms of dementia, Sundowning clasps at a variety of moods and sonic behaviours, finding moments of fragility, defiance and serenity that each stand alone while working together overall as an ever-shifting cohesive unit. Even without the staunch anonymity or love for an ancient deity, Sleep Token would still command ceremonial immersion. Whoever may be behind those masks, one thing is certainly clear as day - to spend time with Sleep Token is to fall into something divine, and Sundowning will capture the senses and ignite the soul.
FITTINGLY, SLEEP TOKEN'S ALBUM SUNDOWNING WILL BE RELEASED IN COMPLETION AT SUNDOWN IN THE UK ON NOVEMBER 21ST (WITH AUSTRALIA GAINING ACCESS FIRST THING NOVEMBER 22ND THROUGH CAROLINE AUSTRALIA AND SPINEFARM RECORDS). FOR MORE INFO, HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER