The follow-up to 2019's 'Sundowning' is an all-encompassing masterclass worth basking in.
Words by Luis (@luis.hoa):
In the contemporary, hyperconnected world of instant news and information, it becomes ever so difficult to preserve the anonymity of one's identity. It takes but a simple Google search to uncover the life details of any particular person, especially if that person is a musician, artist, or public figure of any sort. As we've seen with the theories and endless research done to uncover Tobias Forge as the previously unknown frontman behind Ghost's papal moniker, fans will go through great lengths to discover the mastermind behind a band's endeavors. While a lawsuit gave us all the confirmation needed to confirm their suspicions, knowledge of said discovery removed a large part of the intrigue behind the band's intentions. That said, worry not about who lies behind the mask of Sleep Token and instead shift your attention towards the moving hymns that stem from the collective. Let the mind roam free and let it guide your journey through the band's focused approach to the human experience.
The band's debut full-length, Sundowning, set the standard high for an inaugural delivery and garnered widespread acclaim for its ability to seamless integrate elements from across the spectrum to achieve one truly comprehensive outing. This then sets the expectations high for the eventual follow-up, This Place Will Become Your Tomb, which arrives this Friday, September 24th via the eclectic and always consistent Spinefarm Records. Whatever expectation you had coming into this release, consider it shattered for what Vessel and co. have done here is nothing short of exemplary.
Before engaging with the material itself, we're met by what appears to be a figure dissolving as it descends further into the depths of an ocean, representative of the wondrous nature of the record as a whole. After multiple listens, it's apparent that this is the ideal visual for This Place... Moving on to the music, if we learned anything from Sundowning, it's that Vessel is among the best voices in the post-rock, post-metal arena. Album opener Atlantic is as cinematic an intro as you can get, sporting graceful piano melodies while soaring high with heart-wrenching vocal performance to lose yourself to. While one starts to settle and feel at ease, we hit the midpoint, a moment where a synth line comes alive and readies listeners for the track to kick into high gear. Surely enough, drums explode and the energy erupts, further concluding as a fading vocal performance echoes the lyrics "Don't wake me up...". Hypnosis follows up as a showcase of how Sleep Token ride a fine balance between serenity and aggression. An opening riff kicks off the affair and is met by hefty crashes, which briefly take the back end to allow Vessel's vocal melodies to flourish. A venue-leveling breakdown arrives towards the back-end and Vessel roars as the track changes pace towards a closing, slow-burning display of guitars raging on. Hypnosis is meant for the live stage as a likely fan-favorite that will garner chants of the driving chorus.
Mine, a personal favorite, appears to be less intense at first listen, letting the elegance of the vocal range propel the track's heart to new heights. When you least expect, Mine explodes and leaves one in awe as a hard-hitting "You will be mine!" chorus comes forth, met by brief melodies in between each word. These brief choral passages are convincingly heavy and offer an entry point for listeners not otherwise accustomed to tone of this nature, which is really where Sleep Token thrives as accessible. The previously released single, The Love You Want, introduced the emotion riding throughout the record with lyrics that encourage introspection and is a further testament to the elite musicianship comprised within the masked entity. Haunting beauty through passionate piano lines and a transcendental chorus make up a this true standout amidst a collection of gems, and not to mention the elegance of the choreography commissioned for the track's music video. The Imogen Heap-esque Fall From Me is a raw, powerful, and vocal-only effort of grace that requires a moment of solace for full effect. Tracks like the mentioned Fall From Me and the towering Distraction counteract the otherwise high octane energy with moments of tranquil reflection. There's a genuine finesse to how Sleep Token structured This Place..., allowing for each track to breathe and flow effortlessly.
Descending takes a more pop-oriented, electronic direction that again blurs the genre distinctions that Sleep Token may be categorized as. It's dark, moody, and downright soothing, uncovering yet another face in the group's unique sonic palette. Telomeres, like Mine, is a refined force that shows the band at their best. It's a gentle number that shines bright in brevity, particularly through a galvanizing guitar solo, decorous drum patterns, resounding bass, and one of Vessel's best vocal performances yet. Though there are no tracks in the vein of Gods where screams lead the way, This Place... does deliver that side of Sleep Token in spurts, more so on the instrumental ends. We've seen the many sides of the band's musical capabilities and it all comes to a close with the touching soundscapes of Missing Limbs. If the stripped down, from the room below version of Blood Sport was to your liking, you'll find yourself right at home here. It's incredibly poignant and puts an exclamation point to the tantalizing experience of This Place in a way that only Vessel's vocal prowess could.
For as often as the "album of the year" title gets thrown around, This Place... is worthy of such acclaim. This Place... doesn't force innovation or try to integrate external elements for the sake of doing so. Everything feels well placed and organic, offering much in the range of exploration with each track unfolding new layers from listen to the next. This isn't a record you hear once and abandon. Quite the contrary, subsequent listens will elaborate on the heart invested within each passing minute of the wonder that Sleep Token have crafted here. This is a powerhouse brimming with talent that has yet to hit a peak, showcasing much of what lies within their musical palette throughout only two records released this far. For as flooded as release weeks have been, This Place... stands tall among it all. We're witnessing only the start of something special...
This Place Will Become Your Tomb arrives this Friday, September 24th via Spinefarm Records. Order your copy HERE.