Artist: Sleep Token
Album: This Place Will Be Your Tomb
Sleep Token are a band enshrouded in mystery—and one who have rapidly gathered a cult following of sorts following the explosive success of their record Sundowning. Combining melancholic elements of pop, post-rock, post-hardcore and whimsical splashes of metalcore, Sleep Token are…well, different, and in their difference, somewhat polarizing. After Sundowning became a sleeper hit record, the underground heavy music community at large focused their attention on the act, as If to ask “okay, so what’s next?” Sleep Token—not ones to shy down from pressure, it would seem—responded in record time with the ambitious, sprawling and cinematic record This Place Will Be Your Tomb. The question at hand was how the record would land following Sundowning—would it lend the diversity and energy that Sundowning was short on? Or would it see the band move in a different direction altogether? The answer is—well, not so black-and-white; This Place Will Be Your Tomb is a more focused release than Sundowning, but ultimately one that still sees the band dragging their feet, demonstrating extreme talent yet exercising it to a capacity far beyond that which they’re capable of. The result is a lethargic record with some extreme highs but a low, hum-drum baseline that leaves little lasting impact.
If you’re still reading, I want to make it abundantly clear before proceeding—I’m not just bagging on a band because they’re popular, or because their sound is different, and I’ll be the first to agree that the individual components of Sleep Token are incredibly talented. On paper, This Place Will Be Your Tomb has incredible percussion, moments of jaw-dropping atmosphere and breath-taking ethereality—it’s even got some pretty fun heavier segments. As a collection of independent elements, Sleep Token is a juggernaut, but as a collective piece, the band sounds like a slightly more dissonant and occasionally-chuggy Coldplay. So many of the band’s songs either start strong but lead nowhere (“Distraction” or “Like That”), or build to a climax that feels either woefully out of place or…well, isn’t really a climax. “Atlantic,” for example, is a dreamy-yet-bleak introductory cut that spend the better part of its duration dragging the listener along until the brief-but-bright climactic sequence—all before dropping off abruptly into “Hypnosis,” which treads an all-too-similar path. However, despite the questionable choices in song structure, the band’s percussion remains top-notch—best heard in lead single “Alkaline,” as well as “Like That” or “Hypnosis.” Melancholic fretwork plays along, building—occasionally—into a blistering lead or a bombastic breakdown. Periodically, the band gets everything right; sophomore single and underdog for anthem-of-the-year in “The Love You Want” is an excellent example of that. The song builds at a nigh perfect rate, finally piquing in a groovy, cinematic closing sequence with a chorus that is bound to dwell on in the listener’s head for weeks. Even the instrumentally lack-luster follow-up track, “Fall For Me”—which is really more of an interlude than anything else—sees Sleep Token in rare form, using pitched vocal effects and a subtle electronic backdrop to wow the listener. Where the band are capable of creating an immaculate blend of post-hardcore, pop and post-rock (“The Love You Want,” “Alkaline”), the moments in which Sleep Token shine are blotted out by a maelstrom of disproportionate mediocrity.
Where it’s hard to do any disservice to Sleep Token is upon consideration of their vocal element. There’s no denying that the band has a remarkable vocal presence and a strong lyrical base to match. This is beyond evident in the superbly strong trifecta of tracks beginning with “The Love You Want” and ending with “Alkaline.” Here, the band’s crooned singing is serene, even as the instrumental backdrop takes on more aggressive hues. “Fall For Me,” which may as well be acapella, sees an incredible vocal performance with a simple-yet-catchy vocal hook take center stage, and absolutely shine while doing so. Even songs like “Atlantic” that succeed more so in putting the listener to sleep than anything else see the band’s vocal presence as supremely impressive. Unfortunately, despite one Hell of a voice (and some thick, strong screams where present), the vocal element alone isn’t enough to rejuvenate songs like “Distraction,” which could be great—but start a snail’s pace and end the same way.
Being totally honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sundowning, but there’s something about Sleep Token that makes me want to love them so badly. Whether it’s the incredible name or art behind This Place Will Be Your Tomb, three of the best standalone tracks of 2021 in “Alkaline,” “The Love You Want” and “Fall for Me,” or the fun, sexy, mysterious allure of the band—I really wish I was on the same page as everyone else with this act. Ultimately, though, the band spends too much time building up to sonic apices which never occur—and end up weighing too heavily on a post-rock-meets-adult-alternative dynamic to make waiting through those songs for a glimmer of their true talent to shine through. With all that said, the record is ultimately a solid collection of songs with nothing on the release being offensively bad—only bland—and a strong step up from the hefty overdose of Ambien that was Sundowning.
For Fans Of: Issues, Minus the Bear, Coldplay, Starset
By: Connor Welsh