Sleep Token – ‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’

By Dave Stewart

There are few acts – not just in the UK but the world – that have as much mystery surrounding them as the mighty Sleep Token. Not only do we not know who’s involved in the project beyond the fronting member’s pseudonym – the enigmatic and sinister Vessel – but we also have no idea what to expect from their releases. Well, we know it’s going to be good, but in what way?

With material that ranges from downright cataclysmic to utterly tranquil, they dance between the two in such an unpredictable way that you never really know what step they’re going to take next. 2020’s ‘Sundowning’ saw them release the whole album one song at a time, slowly creating an entire body of work piece by piece. New album ‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’ has been released far more traditionally, but the music encased within it is just as magical.

The three singles that have been dropped ahead of the release cover all the bases of what this record can do, and it’s full of variety. The ominous darkness swirling through ‘Alkaline’, the emotionally volatile ticking time bomb ‘The Love You Want’ and the simple, majestic, Imogen Heap-like beauty of ‘Fall For Me’ all represent three very different sides to this album, and the way the band glides between them is sublime.

Opening number ‘Atlantic’ sweeps in like a warm breeze, slowly evolving into a pulsating metal mammoth full of those towering low tones that made the previous record so beautifully crushing. Immediately following it is ‘Hypnosis’, easily becoming the heaviest track of the bands catalogue with its hammer-blow breakdowns and unsettling drones. ‘Like That’ is a groovy and terrifyingly low-tuned behemoth, bridging the gap between graceful harmony and pure evil-like child’s play. Sleep Token have taken the aspects that made the previous record and EP’s so powerful and tweaked them, and the resulting tightness is impossible to ignore.

Elsewhere in the record there are genuine unexpected surprises, if such a thing is even really possible with this band. ‘Mine’ teeters on the edge of being a chilled, almost lo-fi pop track, where even the guitar stabs in the chorus don’t take away from it’s fragility. ‘Distraction’ is a gigantic ballad, with pulsing synthwave vibes making Vessel’s painful vocal line, “‘Cause I am broken into fractions” hit just that little bit harder. Alongside tracks like the transcendent ‘Telomeres’ and the stunning album closer ‘Missing Limbs’, this is yet another faultless demonstration of exactly why this band are so well-loved. Nobody else sounds like this.

The main musical developments here are the grasp on melody – which somehow has become even firmer than before – and the lyrical direction. Where the previous record’s words had an air of reverence and devotion to them, this record feels a lot more intimate and personal, perhaps Vessel realising that they can explore their humanity while remaining faceless. When that honesty is combined with the surges of melody it makes for a far deeper connection, and the feeling it creates when listening is pure bliss.

Just like ‘Sundowning’, this album is a balancing act performed without even so much as a wobble. The shades of light and dark blur with one another at all the right times, cascading them in turn for the perfect amount of time before readjusting the scales. If this place really was to become your tomb, you’d move in early to be surrounded by all the treasures within it. One of the most mesmerising records of the year.

DAVE STEWART

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