Sleep Token: goofy gimmick or serious art?

a press shot of sleep token

Over the years Metal Hammer has heard all manner of bizarre sonic coalitions and watched bands emerge from the deepest, weirdest corners of our scene. Yet mysterious collective Sleep Token have got to be up there among the most unique and ‘WTF?’ propositions so far. Not only is their music a fairly unclassifiable fusion of brutal tech-metal and atmospheric post-rock, but the band, driven by masked and cloaked frontman Vessel, claim to live in thrall to an ancient deity called Sleep. OK

Much like Ghost’s Nameless Ghouls, the remaining members of Sleep Token have chosen to remain anonymous in order to retain their shadowy presence – only agreeing to answer our questions via email.

“They go hand in hand,” explains Vessel when we ask if the band’s sound and image are simply an exercise in gimmickry. “Sleep Token serves to add a visual dimension to our journey. A world without texture isn’t a world at all.” The story goes that Vessel first encountered Sleep in a dream where he was promised glory and magnificence in return for his worship. “He is the oldest God, a primal majesty that has endured the ages unperturbed by the mortality of a flawed and chaotic human race,” says the frontman helpfully. “He is everyone. He is you. There’s a power in music that binds us all, every note relates to another. He showed me a vision of a world filled with depth and texture.”

OK, so their ‘backstory’ is silly. But as far as the music’s concerned, Sleep Token are an undeniably intriguing prospect, inhibiting a sparse world of heart-breaking beauty and intense heaviness where stark, and sometimes sinister, skeletal soundscapes build to throbbing climaxes with mesmerising effect. Recent single Calcutta, which premiered on Hammer’s website, builds like a storm: violent, djent-tinged destruction erupting amid Vessel’s ethereal and vulnerable Bon Iver-esque vocals.

“We sculpt, build and craft these sounds with an aim to deliver the emotional magnitude of His words,” says Vessel. “Destroy and rebuild over and over until what is left is what His followers shall hear. The influences come from the physical and emotionally charged world at large. Dreams are textural, so is music and much like life; they bring both darkness and life, beauty and ugliness – it’s our job to translate and convey those complexities as best we can. Each of these songs is an experience, but to find the real details you’ll have to explore them yourself. The music will ring out and people will continue to follow, for that’s what people do best. Follow. Stay with us and we’ll show you the whole world through his eyes. What a magnificent sight that is.”

Sounds like: An intriguing and shadowy blend of atmospheric post-rock and tech

For fans of: Meshuggah, Bon Iver, Explosions In The Sky

Listen to: Calcutta

Sleep Token’s new EP, Two, is out now via Basick

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