When it comes to music and how it’s presented nowadays, most bands have realised that music alone isn’t enough to get the necessary clicks. That’s why the multimedia approach has become the technique of choice; it’s more about the flash, the image and excruciating volume of teasers than merely what a band sounds like. And yet, when a band decides to capitalise on this by formulating their own mythos, that becomes the encouragement to listen when, in the end, it feels like more effort has gone into that than creating the actual music, ultimately the most important part of this whole rigmarole.
So in comes Sleep Token, the atmospheric metal project led by a masked figure simply called Vessel, whose job it is to relay the messages of Sleep, an ancient deity with power imbued within the band’s music. Just from that brief description, this is a band who will clearly be known more for their invented story than their music, and judging by new EP Two, there’s the feeling they know that too. It’s not that it’s particularly bad, but across three fairly lengthy tracks, Sleep Token always threaten to get going and if that even happens it all, it feels tacked on in the final phase when some meatier, metallic guitars are rammed in. Otherwise, this is the epitome of background music, pleasant to have on and let it wash through the atmosphere, but there’s not much that’s particularly gripping or that stands out.
Having said that, the appeal of Sleep Token is fairly easy to glean. It mainly comes in the vocals, the sort of heavily histrionic, reedy croons that do admittedly have the necessary otherworldly vibe. There’s a definite fluidity to them as well, not some much on Jericho with its blocky synth line, but over the sinuous choral vocals of Calcutta or the darker expanse of Nazareth, there is an ethereal quality that’s easy to become lost in. But beyond that, there isn’t really much else to say; the instrumentation is minimal with sparse synths buried amongst thick layers of vocal chants before a brief, heavier passage of guitar work, and the writing feels consigned to garnish, thinning out into willowy vocalisations over actual content more often than not.
But again, this feels like the point, and Sleep Token do succeed overall in terms of making a brand of off-kilter atmospheric music. But for the mystique and imagery they’ve created for themselves, Two doesn’t offer much, if anything, to tie into how interesting that could potentially be to explore, and that really feels like a waste. For some weirder post-metal, you could do worse than this, but just don’t go in thinking the image will amount to much more than a passable attempt.
For fans of: Deftones, Bon Iver, Team Sleep
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Two’ by Sleep Token is released on 21st July on Basick Records.