Sleep Token have been causing a stir with their deeply emotional sound and theatrical appearance. Sundowning brings together the twelve tracks Sleep Token have released over the period from June to November this year. The anonymity surrounding the band members maintains an air of mystique around the group.
Sleep Token have created a very distinctive sound. The soaring vocals are instantly recognisable with such a unique tone and texture. Musically they combine heavy guitars with serene synth lines. The variety of their tracks shows the flexibility of their sound as they venture into the realms of different genres. But ultimately, their music remains easily identifiable. The title of the album establishes the concept that runs through the tracks: “Sundowning, or sundown syndrome, is a neurological phenomenon associated with increased confusion and restlessness in patients with delirium or some form of dementia. The term ‘sundowning’ was coined due to the timing of the patient’s confusion. For patients with sundowning syndrome, a multitude of behavioural problems begin to occur in the evening or while the sun is setting…”
The Offering is the heaviest track on the album and packs a powerful punch early in the track listing. The guitar tone is excellent; balancing the harsh tone and heavy texture within a processed sound. Sleep Token seamlessly integrate the guitars into their song writing so that it doesn’t feel jarring transitioning into the piano and vocal led verses. The outro on this track is particularly fantastic. Having a section of music that is so out there and feels quite removed from the rest of the track, in this case, works incredibly well. This breakdown is powerful with the huge sound produced from the rhythm guitars, whilst the melodies that float over it bring in a dark, haunting aspect. Sleep Token are clearly excellent in their use of instruments however, this album as a whole feels like its lacking some more heavy guitars. Or rather, it’s lacking variety in how they are used. The drama and dynamics the guitars can add, as seen in The Offering, could have been used to further emphasise other tracks.
The piano and vocal focus of Levitate produces a great dynamic change as the track follows on from The Offering. The track has a strong intimacy with the minimalism of the verses. As the track progresses it develops with the addition of backing vocals, instruments and pop style claps. The sudden burst into heavy guitars is a surprise. It adds an extra punch to the song. Dark Signs continues the personal feel. The low bass synths and vocal line once again shows the minimality of their music. It places the focus on the vocals which deliver such an emotional sound. The introduction of such a range of synth textures and melody lines in Dark Signs creates a full sound with busy undertones and yet, it doesn’t detract from the vocals. And of course, the heavy guitars in the latter half of the track give the sound an extra boost. These two tracks do feel repetitive in terms of their structure despite having quite distinctive sounds. The guitars, in some ways, feel like an afterthought. Added into the final sections of the tracks for a final boost of energy. Space isn’t given to the guitars that allows for expression to be produced from them.
The latter half of the album brings more experimental tracks. The focus on harsh vocals and growling guitar tone in Gods creates a dynamic sound that reveals another side of their music. The placement of a calmer piano and clean vocal section in the middle of this track feels a bit odd. The two sections are both well written and executed individually but the tones and textures don’t complement each other. Sugar has a sensual atmosphere. The variation in instruments and the softer vocal style blend well together. The change into heavier instrumentation and edgier vocals works well. This track does take a bit of digesting as it completely diverges from their other songs but the experimental nature of this appears to have paid off.
Sleep Token have created a unique sound that continues to be distinctive and instantly recognisable. The dynamics of their tracks, along with the theatrics and mystique that surrounds the band’s members, has set them on a path of great success. As they continue to grow and develop it would be great to see them progress further in with their song structure and their use of instrumentation
For fans of: The Contortionist, TesseracT, Ghost
Words by Holly Royle
‘Sundowning’ by Sleep Token is released on 22nd November on Spinefarm Records.