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Sleep Token – Take Me Back to Eden Award winner

Sleep Token
Take Me Back to Eden
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 16 May 2023, 1:51 PM

The first time I heard this band was on Pandora radio in 2018, and the song was “The Night Does Not Belong to God.” I remember immediately thinking, “wow, he has a strikingly beautiful voice.” And then the song played, and I was instantly hooked. I then began to delve into their catalogue. Their first two EPs flew under the radar for the most point but had some real gems on them. They were also on the lighter side of the band’s inventory. The first song on the EP “One” that struck me was “When the Bough Breaks.”  “Sundowning” was their first full album, and it enveloped me. Besides the stand-out heavy song “Gods,” most of the songs were lighter and more melodic. “Take Aim,” and “Levitate” are two of my favorites. I didn’t realize that they were a masked collective. The band stayed under the radar from the Metal community during this time, partly because you can only label of the songs as “Metal.” But there is so much more to them.

The next album they released was “This Place Will Become Your Tomb.” It was after a few songs released when they began to gain some more fans. The gritty “Alkaline,” the unabashed Pop melodies of “Fall for Me,” and the charming “The Love You Want” were three songs that led the charge on that album. The album was still fairly tame by conventional Metal standards. They slowly began to gain even more fans and enjoyed an opening slot on a US Tour. Silence fell for just a while, until the beastly roar of “The Summoning” was released. Five more songs followed, and I noticed a sharp rise in their popularity online. In February, they announced the upcoming release of their latest effort in May, titled “Take Me Back to Eden.” The album has twelve songs.

“Chokehold” is the first song. Slow, fuzzy, and distorted guitar notes lead off the song, followed by Vessel’s sultry vocals. Heavy notes drop like lead from the sky, with a seductive and provocative groove to them. If ever there were a song about sex, this is it. I picture Rome’s Emperor Caligula hosting one of his infamous parties full of fornication and debauchery. Moans and screams of unadulterated pleasure emanate from his chambers, and when you are done listening, you are covered in sweat. “The Summoning” goes deeper, darker, and heavier. It’s probably Vessel at his most sinister and devious. The main riff is marred with a brutal, punishing sound. “I’ve got a river running right into you…you’ve got my body flesh and bone” he tantalizes. Vocal harmonies soar in the chorus, followed by passages of bloody murder. The ending is a funky treat of vocals that come out of nowhere.

“Granite” has wonderful R&B tones; yes, I said R&B. One thing that is constant about the band is that they are never constant. That element of surprise is one of the best things about the band. The tones here are smooth, mellow, and pleasing, with an element of darkness in the background. The breakdown at the end is bossy chonky. “Aqua Regia” has beautiful piano and keyboard elements. The vocals swing with the confidence of a performer. The simple melodies here are enough for any music fan to connect with, and it sweeps you off your feet to memories of easier times. “Vore” is another deep, an angry sound, with harsh vocals that resonate under the soundscape of heavy, djent tones. The clean vocals are like something plucked from the void…dangerously smooth in many ways. The chorus is absolutely divine, and melody spills out like water. Vore is a fetish involving being eaten by or eating someone or something, real or imaginary.

“Do You Wish That You Loved Me” is apparently a polarizing song for many fans, but I love its simple elegance. It wouldn’t be a SLEEP TOKEN album without one of these songs. The melody is very pleasing, and the message makes your heart ache. “Do you ever believe…that we can turn into different people,” and “is it better not to feel,” he asks. The question is rhetorical, but it hits you in your soul. “Ascensionism” is piano and acapella led vocal song. Following the beautiful opening sequence, the R&B vibes return. It’s all about the well-crafted vocal harmonies here, and you can get lost in them easily. After the half-way mark, heavier Djent tones enter, and darkness descends with harsh vocals. Taken as a whole, this is one of the better songs on the album. It is simply stunning.

The smooth and positive sounds of “Are You Really OK?” is an impassioned question that comes from someone who truly cares. Guitar is something that Vessel doesn’t use a whole lot as medium for his music, but this song proves once again that he is a master of all instruments. Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any more, his pleas of “please don’t hurt yourself again,” combined with his suffocating voice, and the gentle twinkle of the guitars stab you straight in your heart. It’s about the frustration and deep concern one has for a friend of lover who is contemplating suicide. If you’ve been feeling dead inside for years, take a chance on this song, and open yourself up again to others. The crescendo at the end will run goosebumps on your entire body. Emotional eminence is what comes to mind.

“The Apparition” is about seeing someone you love, or miss, who is now gone. The music is somewhat dark, reflecting the title of the song. The chorus is thick, and broad, with a keyboard melody in the background. The overall effect of the song is sad, and yearning. “No matter what I do, this wound will never heal” he states, matter-of-factly. We’ve all been there before. “Rain” is a piano and vocal led song with plenty of emotion. The sound picks up with weighted accents as the song moves on, and hasty elements follow. “Maybe it’s all a game” he quips. “So, rain down on me” he says, giving in to the pain.

The title track is over eight minutes long. Smooth, easy tones lead the song, with some delicate guitar notes. Vessel’s voice breaks in, and he recounts better days of the past. When he sings the chorus, heavy notes drop. R&B tones kick in from there, with serenity. You can hear the birds chirping as you settle down with a book in your garden. As in many lengthy songs, the sound travels up and down different paths at times, morphing, and keeping you on your toes, especially the harsh vocal and aggressive breakdown towards the end. “Euclid” closes the album, and what a beauty it is. With another completely different vocal style, Vessel continues to amaze me. It’s a thick, melodic dose of harmonies that will transport you to somewhere away from all the pain. Maybe there is peace and unanimity at the end of the road? A reprisal of “The Night Does Not Belong to God” washes in at the end.

How do you define this band? I have been thinking about this for years and have come up with one impugnable truth: You can’t. That is the magic in the jar…the stars you have plucked from the heavens…the truth you have stolen from the devil…the innocence of youth. The rumors about the band disappearing into the sunset might inevitably be real. “So give me the night, the night, the night…” is that a big clue? No, going out on top would just be too cliché for a band who has just conquered the world with their music, and what a totally diverse offering they have given their fans here…twelve songs, each with their own distinct personality, is a very rare occasion these days. The repertoire of their deep well that they can draw from seems endless, like the vastness of the universe. This is one of those landmark albums where you will remember where you were when you heard it, decades later.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. Chokehold
2. The Summoning
3. Granite
4. Aqua Regia
5. Vore
6. Ascensionism
7. Are You Really Okay?
8. The Apparition
10. Rain
11. Take Me Back to Eden
12. Euclid
Vessel – Vocals
II – Drums
III – Bass
IV – Guitar
Record Label: Spinefarm Records


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