Sleep Token – ‘Take Me Back To Eden’

By Fiachra Johnston

Claimed by masked frontman Vessel to be the mortal representatives of an ancient deity known as ‘Sleep’, Sleep Token evoke such acts as Ghost and Heilung, being part band, part performance art project. The air of mystery surrounding their members is as much a draw as their atypical approach to progressive rock songwriting and so far, it’s paid off. The London based troupe of mysterious prophets known only as Vessel, II, III and IV have cultivated a unique brand of heavy music that is complimented by their onstage storytelling, but is by no means reliant on it. Between worshiping the slumbering shuddering horrors beyond and selling out a UK headline tour, the anonymous quartet have still found time to stoke online hype in recent months with the release of the singles for their third album. ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ has become a highly anticipated project as a result, and with the album’s full release now upon us, Sleep Token look to close out a thematic trilogy of albums with an unholy communion between multiple genres, blended together into a truly unique experience.

Sleep Token are a jarring listen at first, as the extravagant vocals and light piano keys of the opening track, ‘Chokehold’ suddenly drop into screaming downtuned guitars, and as the album progresses you’ll quickly realise this is Sleep Token’s M.O. The quartet adore this contrast between traditional prog and metalcore sounds and softer elements taken from R&B, electronica, and hip hop, and this is clearest in ‘The Summoning’. In an otherwise hardcore track with machine gun drum kicks and chugging guitars, an honest to god funk breakdown seems an unnatural addition, but its inclusion is testament to Sleep Token’s devious desire to get as weird as possible with their songwriting influences. ‘Granite’ only briefly dips into heavy territory, but its rumbling electronic basslines put weight to the track before the breakdown kicks in,  featuring some truly sludgy guitars you’ll wish popped up more throughout the album.

So much of the spirit of invention in this album comes from this eclectic fusion, forming something not quite one or the other. ‘The Apparition’, which folds gorgeous haunting synths into roaring metalcore guitars, best exemplifies how each part of their sound holds the other up. Sleep Token are comfortable keeping this formula of fusion for a lot of the record, though when one of these elements is removed, the house of cards wobbles. ‘DYWTYLM’ sheds its prog-rock elements fully in favour of indie-pop beats, but it feels a little empty, never hitting the same grand scale the rest of the record aims for. This doesn’t mean the more intimate moments of TMBTE are its weakest. ‘Aqua Regia’ with its lounge piano and Daft Punk electronica, is unlike anything else on the album, a moment of reprieve from the atmospheric chaos the rest of the album exudes. The dreamy guitars and soulful vocals of ‘Are You Really Okay’ seem inspired by more indie-pop driven groups such as London Grammar, and ‘Euclid’, which closes out the album, mixes powerful keys with a vocoded self-harmony from Vessel that builds upon itself, transforming into a soaring alt-rock ballad by the end. While they’re not the standout moments of the album, it’s interesting to see how comfortable Sleep Token are experimenting in these softer moments.

Paradoxically, this is also Sleep Token’s heaviest album when it chooses to be. ‘Rain’ alternates between beautiful piano ballad and wailing metalcore lamentation, while ‘Vore’ aptly swallows you whole in a flurry of sound, with Vessel providing some truly demonic black-metal screeches in one of his standout performances of the record. It would be remiss to overlook the beautiful drumming of IV here as well, and throughout the rest of the record they transition between these full-on prog-rock performances and smooth, almost jazz-like drumlines that contrast the simpler electronic beats in the album. It’s an expansive percussion setup that has no right sounding as cohesive as it does, but it truly brings the whole idea of an indie-prog fusion together.

What Sleep Token excel at more than anything else though is scale. When all the pieces are on the board, all the style changes loaded in the chamber, such as the seven minute ‘Ascensionism’ or the eight minute titular track, ‘Take Me back To Eden’, Sleep Token truly hit their stride. These tracks encompass  heavy breakdowns, UK Grime and R&B electronic elements, and the band’s trademark euphoric vocals. It’s a sample platter of everything Sleep Token wish to show off on this record, ‘Ascensionism’ especially emulating Greek tragedy in its storytelling, as those last wailing lyrics echo out over buzzing guitars: “You make me wish I could disappear”.

With ‘Take Me Back To Eden’, Sleep Token have delivered the e genre-bending rock opera they have been building up to over the last four years. All of their maniacal melodrama is cranked to 11, all the stylistic tinkering of the previous albums pushed to the limit over twelve tracks. Some will undoubtedly fail to gel with the band’s tried and true formula, or take to such a jarring fusion of style, but this just solidifies Sleep Token’s position as a unique proposition with a sound that’s impossible to compare to any of their contemporaries. Should you choose to engage with Vessel and company’s proclaimed ritual of worship, you may just find your prayers answered here.


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