Overall Score: 9.5/10 Songwriting: 10/10 Production : 9/10 Technical Proficiency : 10/10 Pros: The best album Sleep Token has produced and only an upwards trajectory in sight. Cons: There isn't more of it.
The occult, anonymity, deities and illusive lore, the world of metal has heard it all; yet none can stand head and shoulders above the masters of mythic, Sleep Token. As a mouthpiece for the deity simply known as ‘Sleep’ – for no modern tongue equivalent exists – Sleep Token have appeared painted, masked and robed from 2016 and, through numerous EPs and a breakthrough debut, have amassed a devout legion of Sleep-fearing followers. In matrimony between soul-crushing vocal performances and key work with the ruthlessness of metalcore-esque breakdowns, the faceless prophets have proven time after time that their sermons deserve open ears. Two years on from their first full-length service and, whether it be a musical choice or the will of the supposed deity, This Place Will Become Your Tomb reveals Sleep Token in a far more raw, more vulnerable light.
As is to be expected, Sleep Token continues their penchant for mystery as they allow their divine plan to unfurl with the mere release of their sophomore record itself being characteristically laced in enigma. Gone is the ritualistic, week-by-week, reveal of the band’s phenomenal Sundowning and, instead, we were blessed with inviting morsels; telling of a more reserved, more focused entity. These faint whispers, glimpses into the future, reveal a familiar choir of crooning, emotionally charged vocals, bold but estranged pop tangents and an underlying heaviness that harnesses a force of emotion as much as the instrumental spectrum. While the band still betrays the expected sounds from their spectral appearance and haunting mannerisms, This Place… possesses a heaviness of another kind and one that perhaps runs deeper than their first chapter.
Simply put the band is leading the clergy to a place where ‘heaviness’ and ‘weight’ is no longer drawn from sinister guitar play but in the might of the band’s ability to conjure emotional strain. What remains ever consistent, on a musical basis, is Sleep Token’s nack for complex arrangements and superb penmanship; both on a lyrical and songwriting front. In a way, this feels like a more congruent piece of scripture than forgone writings. Wrapped in its various nautical thematics – artwork and lyrics included – This Place…’s greater leaning on ballad-play and melancholy makes for a greater whole than Sundowning’s more variegated arrangements; which is no slight on such album. Starting with a timid but rich piano line, Atlantic floods the soundscape with desperate longing and a heavy heart before reaching into the band’s portfolio of spacious and atmospheric chugs a la Deftones to round off the album’s first great stride.
This is a lyrically potent album, not unlike their previous work, and there is still much to be debated on whether their faceless nature allows greater resonance for such features. On one hand, perhaps the more down-to-earth lines can appear disingenuous due to Vessel’s otherworldly visage but in equal parts, it gives us a blank canvas to attach and emphasise with as we put ourselves in the place of our masked messenger. Whichever side of the coin we land on, the record brings a brutally human touch as our anguished preacher cries out “Oh God I wish you were here!” between the slow-burning walls of Fall For Me; this, and many other examples bring this unearthly collective very close to home.
This is to say nothing of the sheer strength of This Place…’s remaining arsenal. As it happens, teasers The Love You Want and Alkaline do well to encompass the record’s two-tone strategy – the former mirroring the desperation and pop-driven M.O of Mine and Distraction while Alkaline packs similarly unforgiving instrumental blows to Hypnosis or the hair-raising High Water. These all scream album highlights yet the sermon’s final moments is where any dubious non-believers shall find their conversion.
From Telomeres to High Water and the climax of Missing Limbs; this may be one of the best final sprints metal has seen in a while, let alone from Sleep Token. Telomeres opens tentatively with soft keys and Vessel’s rising melodies before exploding into a rich arena of shoegaze expanse – a curveball for the band’s historically clean palette – for one of the record’s most crushing choruses beside one of the band’s most beautifully written dynamics of ebb and flow. High Water feels closer to the record’s true and final sonic eruption – armed with empowered melodic phrasing and a twisted breakdown to boot – and left in the wake of this supernova, Missing Limbs is the band’s black dwarf – their most stripped and bare track to date and a fantastic final moment of emotional exposure.
This Place Will Become Your Tomb, with its greater emphasis on meditative and sorrowful soundscapes, has flung the temple doors wide open for new sleepwalkers to take their place in worship. With a near spotless tracklist – Like That representing a rare dip and really is only a dip in the rankings – complex, yet accessible, musicianship that bleeds sorrow and hardship with each touch of a string; this is the best Sleep Token has ever been. Easily standing as one of the year’s greatest albums this is crushing, definitive and intelligent design from metal’s favourite divine messengers.
This Place Will Become Your Tomb is released on the 24th of September via Spinefarm Records. Pre-order the album on various platforms through this link.