ALBUM REVIEW: Sleep Token – Sundowning

Words by Ash Wallace

So, who and what is Sleep Token? Sleep Token have risen from the UK music scene and sparked interest and curiosity within the music community. Without a clue on who the actual artist behind the music is, the fan base has grown substantially. The mystery and allure of the members behind the masks continue to intrigue their fans, with in-depth reddit threads and discussion boards. An almost cult-like concept: Ancient ruins symbolism, their anonymity, going by ‘Vessel 1’ and ‘Vessel 2’, talk of the deity called ‘Sleep’ and cryptic phrases like ‘Worship’ and ‘Take our hand, protect his message’, we can’t help but be attracted to them. But, what makes us so attracted to the unknown?  Maybe it’s because there is beauty in the unknown, and we rely on our innate curiosity, heavily rooted in the human condition.

Like Twelve Foot Ninja did back in 2012, Sleep Token has been ‘waterfalling’ the tracks from ‘Sundowning’ as singles from June up to the final song release on the 21st of November to complete the album. With each single release, there is an accompanying visualiser and a new design or piece of merchandise. The marketing team with Sleep Token have really hit the nail on the head here, building up the hype and creating buzz for fans.

If this album is going to be your first taste of Sleep Token, prepare to be enthralled by the beauty that is ‘Sundowning’ and prepare to worship.

Sun downing; a term used to describe the mental state associated with patients who suffer from dementia and delirium. Symptoms of restlessness, suspicion, hallucination, disorientation and anxiety are usually apparent at night, or sun down.

The Night Does Not Belong To God is a perfect example of their ambient, but heavy style. The track is synth heavy and ties in to their love of layering. Instantaneously, there was goose bumps and left me wanting more.

As the music fades into the second track, The Offering, you’re hit with a techno-melodic intro that makes its way into a filthy breakdown, heavier guitar riffs and vocal harmonies. The drum progressions were second to none, as they are throughout the album.  Definitely felt a strong sense of a story line in this track with all the different changes that were going on as the song evolved. Towards the end half of the track, it was turning into something more dark and eerie, somewhat of a dream turning into a nightmare.

Serene piano melodies introduce this track, Levitate, closely followed up with beautiful vocals. You can hear the fragility of the notes being sung and feel the sense of brokenness that the song instils. Towards to middle of the song, it gets more layered, and the instrumental composition is thickened with drum beats and backup vocals.  It’s a bittersweet track, a sombre but gentle piece.

I can see how this track may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Dark Signs is more on the techno-even trap side, with a few djent transitions and overall electronic ambience. But that’s what’s so great about Sleep Token, they are so versatile and don’t like sticking to a single genre.

The guitar tones in the beginning of Higher are eerily familiar but I can’t quite put my finger on it…however, the track gave me chills all over. There is dark drum kicks and filthy vocal distortion to wrap up the song. You must really commend Sleep Token on their ability to create such emotional and endearing stories through their lyricism and dynamic instrument arrangements.

The first thing you notice while listening to Aim is Vessels’ vocal ability and strength. A very graceful and ‘pull at the heartstrings’ type song. A real reflection of emotional trial and tribulation, and a track I find myself coming back to many times.

Give is a dark pop offering, I won’t lie, this song took me a bit of warming up to, but it is quite the masterpiece.

Gods sounds a little like Goon Squad or When Girls Telephone Boys by Deftones and is one of Sleep Tokens heaviest releases yet!  Unlike the other tracks on the album, the screams and heavy vocals in this one really project the track and make it stand out from the rest, for sure one of my favourites.

Sexy, desire, sensual, yearning, presence. Words that come to mind after listening to Sugar.

The heavy repetition of lyrics “Sugar, I’ve developed a taste for you” makes me think the song is toying with addiction and relationships. The heaviness and voice change that was introduced in the middle of the track was definitely the part of the song that got me hooked, and not to mention the Final Fantasy vibe the harp synth brought out in the intro and outro to the song.

Say That You Will, a piece of gorgeous haunting vocals and a heavy build-up which makes it a very strong track. We know Sleep Token love their laying and this track is no different. The contrast of alluring vocals and dark, heavy instrumental layout undeniably captivate the listener.

Drag Me Under is another slow and elegant track, heavy focus on the dense piano notes and muted vocals. The song for me, since there is no heavy vocals or elements this time, really encapsulates the concept of mystery and desperation even more. As I said, there is no breakdowns in this track, so will possibly be a hit or miss track for audiences.

The final track, Blood Sport is another delicate song with grit. The soft piano melodies return and ethereal orchestral vibe of the chorus enough to put you to sleep. But of course, the track builds up and becomes riff heavy and gritty. Blood Sport fades out with the sound of crying and sobbing over low piano notes and closes the album beautifully.

Sleep Token have really created a refreshing spin on their craft, and in my opinion, are strong contenders for album of the year. 

In this new age of ever evolving genres and sub genres, Sleep Token refuse to be labelled, put in a box, and stored away for us never to think about again. Rather than focusing on who they band is, the focus is wholeheartedly the emotional connection and the creative force that flows throughout the whole album. The anonymity behind the ensemble allows for total focus on the messages within each track and freedom to concentrate on just the music. You don’t necessarily have to understand it, you just have to feel it.

‘Sundowning’ is available via Spinefarm Records in FULL on Friday November 22nd, with tracks 1-10 available now on all streaming platforms. Pre-order ‘Sundowning’ here.

If you find yourself in the USA or Canada this November and December, you may be able to catch Sleep Token live for yourself! Tour dates and tickets for the USA/CAN tour here.

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