Artist: Sleep Waker
Album: Lost in Dreams – EP
Rock bottom is feeling the pain in your heart with every successful breath you take into your chest. Rock bottom is feeling like nothing but a burden to the people you love, the people who used to hold you up and the people who brought you into this world. Rock bottom is having no desire to eat, drink, breathe, persist—it is the feeling that you simply don’t want to continue existing.
Rock bottom is going to sleep to escape the world your consciousness withers away in only to be followed by your demons into your dreams.
Rock bottom is the soul smothering sound of the breakout EP by Michigan metalcore outfit Sleep Waker, aptly titled Lost in Dreams—a sprawling display of emotionally infused hardcore and metalcore mixed with liter after liter of cranially abrasive, mentally toxic nu-metal and groove. The result? The bitter, skin-snapping cold of a Midwest winter infused with a taste of contemporary, tumultuous and blistering intensity in the form of straightforward an earnest aggression; the sound of a band spilling their heart and soul while also spilling the blood and guts of the listener in the process.
One part enigmatic and dark, one part quick and ferocious and three parts ruthlessly aggressive in both tooth, claw and emotional intensity, Lost in Dreams is like a nightmare you don’t really want to wake up from. Taking a trendy, “in” amalgam of nu-metal, hardcore, metalcore and groove and flipping it on it’s ear, this Michiganian quintet are both catchy and crushing; emotionally immersive and eviscerating all in one fell swoop. It starts with the punctual, punishing precision of percussionist Frankie Mish, who keeps every song moving along—especially on opening number “Bitter” and moments of the diverse and sprawling song “Rainbringer.” Mish, who is quick and creative with patterns and fills alike, isn’t without a profound ability to stop, slow things down and drag them out: take the unbelievably eerie and oh-so-heavy “The Candlemaker,” for example. Here, Mish works excellently with bassist Noah Boland to create a beefy, thick low end that lurid and bleak, leaving the listener as lifeless as roadkill. Boland, while brutalizing during moments of “The Candlemaker” and “Bitter” also adds groove and thick, gritty glue to the band’s dynamic during “Svn Cvlt,” which moves fluidly from raunchy groove to gruesome breakdown without missing a beat; adding depth and heft to the riffs and relentless breakdowns of guitarists Jason Caudill and Eric Overway. Caudill and Overway give Sleep Walker their sharp, carnivorous teeth, but also the tediously peaceful and ethereal elements that make them stand out. While “Bitter” and the aforementioned others are certainly examples of razor-sharp, ridiculous and ruthless riffwork, “The Candlemaker” has moments of chill-inducing disquiet, and songs like “Rainbringer” and the emotional closer “Svn Cvlt” which give Sleep Waker a difficult-to-describe but unremarkable blend of styles that dips into post-rock and post-hardcore both to bring out ambience and atmosphere that serves as a sort of purgatory between moments of hellishly hot, infernally heavy power. This comes with a disclaimer, of sorts—while Caudill and Overway take great steps to avoid falling into pitfalls of genericism and boring, monotonous “nu” infused metalcore, those who find themselves with aversions to the genre’s modernistic reboot will likely find segments of Lost in Dreams a little hard to get into—which is wholly their loss.
Sleep Waker’s scintillating musicianship is only the beginning though. With hypnotic and haunting moments of calm that lull you into slumber—or blunt-force brutality that sends you into a coma—Lost in Dreams’ driving and dynamic vocal element adds even more depth to their immersive blend of metal, hardcore, nu-metal and more. Frontman Hunter Courtright—assisted by Boland and Mish both—is a juggernaut when it comes to crushing intensity and emotionally crippling, soul-shredding despair. Taking the listener’s sanity and running it across a freshly sharpened cheese grater, Courtright brays and gruff mid-range yells on “Bitter,” or energetic and sharp screeches on “The Candlemaker” are examples of his dynamic range, while his work on “Svn Cvlt” and “Rainbringer” are examples of his more diverse moments when it comes to combining full-on feeling with fury and power both. Throughout the entirety of Lost in Dreams, Courtright (et al) keep the listener engaged with both ear and head (not to mention heart) in a way that combines the likes of several of their peers—from more progressive and heavy-soft dynamos like Currents to artists like Soulkeeper, Sworn In or Barrier (not to mention Yuth Forever, whose influences, especially throughout “The Candlemaker” are strong as steel).
You’ve been steeped in a dark, dreary sleep—a never-ending series of hallucinations where neither your mind or body are capable of rest. Instead, you search, aimlessly, looking for anything that might get you back to reality—to consciousness. But there is nothing. There is only Sleep Waker, and their debut release, Lost in Dreams. Haunting, mesmerizing, murderous and magnificent, Sleep Waker take a tried-and-true formula and add zest, heft and ferocity to it by the boatload, not forgetting to shed a part of themselves into every note and syllable. While those who are more critical of the genre might find “nothing more to see here,” they’re likely either blind or deaf—possibly both—as Sleep Waker are the kind of band that might make you think you’re dreaming, even though you’re very, very awake.
For Fans Of: Alpha Wolf, Sworn In, Currents, Barrier, Yuth Forever, Soulkeeper, VCTMS
By: Connor Welsh