LIVE: Sleep Token @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

By Adam Rosario

In the current rock & metal scene, there has been a rise in the amount of bands who are marrying a look and mythos with their music. Creeper, for example, created a story for the release of their first record – their very own version of the famous David Bowie disappearing act that took place at the same venue as the headliners tonight. Sleep Token have created their own world, with all members being anonymous, and only the ungodly vocalist singer, Vessel, being given a name.

Sleep Token recently released their second record ‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’ following on from the excellent ‘Sundowning’ and tonight, at the biggest show of their career, this music is elevated with theatrics. The atmospheric ‘Atlantic’ opens the show like it does their sophomore record, allowing Vessel to show off his impressive vocal range, from a slow croon while playing soft piano notes, into singing with such power and force the audience would be forgiven for thinking he is singing to a backing track. Sleep Token are made up of four main performers but tonight they bring with them three backing singers who are also cloaked and masked, adding ethereal harmonies behind Vessel, making the spectacle even more impressive. 

Sleep Token do their best to not fit into a specific genre, with elements of metal, pop and RnB all interspersing their songs. When they decide to turn up the distortion, however, they are able to riff with some of the best in the world. ‘Hypnosis’ starts with shaky industrial style synths, spilling hauntingly from the speakers, before the riff takes centre stage, inciting pits and screams in the crowd. If Sleep Token ever decided that they wanted to be a straight metal band, it’s clear they have the talent to do so already. Even though the band are promoting a new record, one of the biggest cheers comes from an older single; ‘Jaws’ leaves its namesakes on the floor, and is the quintessential Sleep Token song, mixing the synths, riffs, screams and chorus which results in one of the highlights of the night. 

‘Dark Signs’ follows, showing those RnB influences with its slinky synth line underpinning a very good pop song, once again showing off the diversity of the band. A monstrous ‘Sugar’ starts the mosh pits again before ‘The Love You Want’ slows everything down, audience members putting arms around shoulders and singing every word back at the band. At the conclusion, the stage goes dark and when the lights return, ‘Fall For Me’ is accompanied by an interpretive dance troupe, moving with Vessel’s words. This is the standout moment of the show, transcending the boundaries of just another gig to an all out theatre show before ‘Alkaline’ ramps the tempo back up and ‘Higher’ closes the main set. 

A three song encore, concluding with ‘Missing Limbs’ finishes the night and with it, the biggest headline show of the bands career. Sleep Token have been given a lot of hype over the last couple of years and now with two very well received albums, they’re finally getting to the venues they deserve to be playing. Vessel is in the conversation for best vocalist in the scene today, able to emote with only his voice and no interaction with the crowd, he’s captivating. What happens next is a mystery, as are a lot of things surrounding this band but with another record, they’ll be moving to bigger venues, and based on the production and quality of show tonight, bigger venues will only allow for more theatre and more production. Sleep Token could be the next breakout band who cross over to the mainstream, and it would be wise to pay attention now.