Everything you need to know about Sleep Token

Sleep Token performing live in 2023
(Image credit: Katja Ogrin/Redferns)

When was the last time a band rocketed up the heavy metal ranks as quickly as Sleep Token? In January 2023 – not even four years after their debut album – they became our genre’s biggest breakout stars when The Summoning enchanted the mainstream on social media and transcended heavy music. Their lore has fascinated Facebook and Reddit groups, their masks have kept everyone in the dark as to who they are and they’re on the cusp of a monumental Wembley Arena show to 10,000 people – which they sold out in just 10 minutes.

With so many people still hopping on the Sleep Token bandwagon, now seemed like an ideal time to get everyone up to speed. Who are Sleep Token? What do they sound like? And which album do you start with? – all of these are answered in the essential guide to the band below.

Metal Hammer line break

What’s the deal with Sleep Token?

Melding R&B, pop and downtuned djent guitars, Sleep Token aren’t your “typical” heavy band. Where ballads like Bloodsport or Drag Me Under employ soft piano, others like Gods or Vore lean far more into extremity, with screamed vocals and heaving breakdowns. The Summoning, one of the first singles released from this year’s Take Me Back To Eden album, went viral on TikTok thanks to its melting pot of sounds, particularly its funk outro, which got many hot under the collar. In fact, almost every single from Take Me Back… saw huge success on the platform, catapulting Sleep Token’s profile to an impressive two million monthly Spotify listeners in mere weeks.

Who is the singer of Sleep Token?

Hardly anything is known about the masked man that goes by the name Vessel. Sleep Token’s lore says that he is the human vessel for the deity Sleep, whose true name is unpronounceable in any mortal tongue. In reality, there’s all sorts of theories floating around the internet but nothing is truly concrete. All we know is nobody else sounds like him – so if he’d already been in a known band, people surely would’ve spotted by now. 

Vessel of Sleep Token

(Image credit: Andy Ford)

Who plays in Sleep Token?

The other members are just as enigmatic, simply going by II (drums), III (bass) and IV (guitars). One thing’s for certain though: they’re all extremely talented musicians, and just as protective of their privacy as their singer. Onstage they too don black robes, though their masks are far simpler: cloth pieces with Sleep Token’s own symbol language on them. None of the core members of the band have ever been publicly unmasked – though, again, there’s just as many theories abounding online as to who they could be.

Sleep Token's drummer performing onstage

(Image credit: Helle Arensbak/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty)

What are the best Sleep Token songs?

With the huge variety of genres Sleep Token cover, it’s difficult to pick single songs that best exemplify their sound. Jaws, a standalone single from 2018, is often cited by long-time fans as a favourite, though it’s definitely a rawer, less refined example. Alkaline, from 2021’s This Place Will Become Your Tomb, was Sleep Token’s biggest hit pre-viral fame, sitting at 31 million streams on Spotify. Its trap beat, earworm chorus and hefty breakdown make the single a great starting point. For modern songs, it’s hard to go wrong with The Summoning, which takes everything the band have done before and adds a hip-swaying funk outro. 

Sleep Token albums ranked

3. This Place Will Become Your Tomb (2021)

There’s nothing inherently wrong with This Place…, but it felt like a sideways step from debut Sundowning, when the band have proven themselves to be capable of so much more. It’s still a good album, the likes of Alkaline and Telomeres being stunning executions of their formula. It helped their profile massively before TikTok found them, but this is Sleep Token treading water before the huge sonic leap. 

2. Sundowning (2019)

In a rollout that had each song released at fortnightly intervals at sunset until the whole album was out, Sundowning captured imaginations with its unorthodox presentation and dedication to its theme. It’s a refinement on the EPs that preceded it and sports some of Sleep Token’s most beloved songs to date, with The Night Does Not Belong To God and Bloodsport

1. Take Me Back To Eden (2023)

Sleep Token’s most complete work to date, Take Me Back… spans across genres even more than before, folding in R&B, emo rap and funk, alongside the indie pop and prog template they’d established. At an hour long, it’s a sprawling album, but one that rewards multiple listens with its secrets and some career-best songwriting. 

Will Marshall

Will's been a metal obsessive ever since hearing Trivium’s Ascendancy way back in 2005, and it's been downhill ever since. Since joining the Metal Hammer team in 2021, he’s penned features with the likes of rising stars Lake Malice, Scowl and Drain, and symphonic legends Epica. He’s also had bylines in Stereoboard, covering everything from Avenged Sevenfold to Charli XCX.