REVIEW: Sleep Waker – Alias [2021]

Artist: Sleep Waker

Album: Alias

            I don’t know about you, but for me, sleep is a release. I feel as though most of us probably spend a solid amount of our day busting our asses, be it for a job we love or a job we hate—and at the end of it all, there’s the hope for rest; an ever-tempting allure of comfort.

But what happens if you close your eyes, and comfort never comes?

            What happens when the calming caress of sleep is a burdensome blanket instead, weighing on your body while trapping your conscious mind in an awake, aware but entangled state. When sleep eludes you, unable to move, and your mind slowly subjects itself to schism. Your psyche cast into the aether—you begin to experience the immersive sound and mentally immolating adventure that is Sleep Waker’s long-awaited Alias. The follow-up to their critically acclaimed release, Don’t Look at the Moon, Alias is more than just the logical next step in Sleep Waker’s sonic progression. Alias invades the mind, pummeling the listener with a hyperdynamic, whimsical and whiplash-inducing adventure that borrows from nu-metal, brazen metalcore and atmospheric post-metal all in one. The result is a ruthless release that is deadly in precision while still being sprawling in its influence and dynamism. The result is Alias, and it’s time to take your sleep.

            Alias feels kind of like what I’d imagine metalcore in the year 2070 sounds like. Everything—from the production to the songwriting itself—is clean, crisp, bright and ultra-vivid, with pummeling breakdowns and soaring choruses so immersive the listener feels practically steeped in them. Where violent, immolating tracks like “Synthetic Veins” and “Strangers” crash around the listener, others—like “Skin” and “Cold Moon”—see Sleep Waker in a slightly less aggressive (at least outright aggressive) fashion. Regardless, the percussive elements throughout Alias are awe-inspiring. Where more explosive and oppressive tracks see fast fills and drop-of-a-dime time-changes, others see a more subtle and subdued percussive expertise, wherein the thick, plodding kick drum ties in beautifully with thick, luscious bass. This is abundant throughout the groovy, ultra-futuristic “Skin,” and the record’s immensely catchy opening track. Here, heaviness and catchiness work together in careful harmony, with some sections of the song scalding the listener, while the other soothe them. Together with Sleep Waker’s scintillating and dynamic percussion, the band’s sharp fretwork bring about the best instrumental dynamism they’ve had since their inception. “Synthetic Veins” sees jarring dissonance share the stage with furiously fretted leads, while “Melatonin”—a crowd favorite—sees the band balancing alternative and nu-metallic influence alongside a backbone of bombastic metalcore. Meanwhile, the more serene songs see eerie amounts of atmosphere pouring through the bands’ fretboards, only to quickly transition into raunchy breakdowns and ruthless bouts of misanthropic aggression before the listener grows too accustomed to the soothing harmonies and ambient calm.

            Where the band’s futuristic take on contemporary metalcore continues to grow is with consideration of their vocal elements. Where the listener will definitely notice more singing than ever before—especially on “Skin” and “Alias”—they will also notice an expanded lower register of gritty, burly bellows, alongside shrieking, piercing screams. “Synthetic Veins” (which, if you can’t tell, is a personal favorite) dominates in this regard, with some of the band’s finest screams to date. Meanwhile, “Melatonin” does a strong job of highlighting the band’s vocal diversity, while the record’s closing number, “Distance” does a similarly fine job of tying everything together. While the band’s vocal brilliance is nothing new, it also deserves to be said that their lyrical content explores the watershed regions between questioning one’s reality and an introspective examination of one’s self—through both careful metaphor and overt emotion, Sleep Waker take on ambitious lyrical principles that, frankly, sound like they could be overblown and (for lack of a better term) too “djenty” to have any lasting merit. Instead, the band have dug deep to put out lyrics that truly resound with the listener, in turn making Alias just that much stronger.

            While Alias is a cool, sci-fi title, fitting Sleep Waker’s sci-fi vibes, the band have made it no secret that is also stands for All Life is a Sound—and if that’s the case, then Sleep Waker’s 2021 full length record is absolutely full of life. The band have managed to create a sound that is futuristic without being cringy or contrived—and simultaneously, have managed to improve on their immensely popular (and personal favorite) release, Don’t Look at the Moon. In a year where there has been a surge of high-quality heavy records, Sleep Waker continue to break the mold, putting out another record that is hard to sleep on.


For Fans Of: VCTMS, Kingdom of Giants, Distinguisher

By: Connor Welsh