Shrouded in complete anonymity, Sleep Token’s identity often lies in their robes and distinct masks. There’s even a deep lore surrounding the band’s characters and their cult-like imagery for those who are into that, however, to me, this isn’t what defines the band. Sleep Token are rather defined by contradictions, led by heavenly R&B-esque vocals over drop-tuned 8 string guitars and writing 7 minute-long genre-bending epics, yet having exploded in popularity on the short-form platform TikTok. Everything about the band is the antithesis of what the music industry as whole tends to promote or recommend, and yet they’re one of the hottest bands in all of music in 2023.
‘Take Me Back To Eden’, the UK outfit’s third full-length LP is a shining example of the contrasts and paradoxes the band defines themselves with. While there is certainly an element of shock value at play, Sleep Token executes these conflicting elements and styles masterfully in most cases throughout the record. Whether it be the sultry R&B of “Aqua Regia”, to the intense blackgaze of “Vore”, Sleep Token executes well on both fronts, and does so cohesively, which is an impressive feat in of itself, but is also indicative of the band’s maturity over the last few years since their debut. There’s an aura of confidence on the album, that of a band that not only knows what they’re doing, but also knows they are onto something special, and they’re completely right about it.
While I’ve always liked Sleep Token, their albums in the past have never truly hooked me, oftentimes feeling disjointed and bloated. This is to be expected of a band that blends as many genres and writes as long of songs as they do, but it always felt like the band had the potential to be much more than what they were, well, “offering,” to reference a song off their debut. However, with ‘Take Me Back To Eden’, they’ve realized this potential and have finally crafted a cohesive piece of art that throughout its twists and turns, feels connected and whole, and not disjointed.
This is perhaps best encapsulated in the viral single “The Summoning”, which travels from brutal metalcore breakdowns to pseudo soul-funk fluidly and beautifully throughout its 6:35 runtime. In some ways, one may even say it’s their magnum opus, full of insanely catchy hooks despite its progressive and unaccessible tendencies. It showcases all of the band’s strengths and exactly what they are about in its span, but more importantly, the balance of contradictions Sleep Token thrives upon.
The title track and “Ascensionism” also feature this well, incorporating hip-hop beats and flows into their signature piano ballads and grandiose metal arrangements. The latter of which having one of the most intense moments of the record as it slowly descends into metallic madness as Vessel menacingly repeats “diamonds in the trees, pentagrams in the night sky”. Of course, these contrasts aren’t limited to the tracks themselves, as there are multiple tracks that don’t experiment within themselves, but rather contrast with other tracks within the tracklist. “Ascensionism” is followed up by “Are You Really Okay”, an emotional ballad built around a guitar lick that wouldn’t feel too out of place on a Beatles song.
Beyond the experimentation, the musicianship of ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ is also much more mature compared to their past releases, with each instrument and arrangement complimenting the other and getting its own respective time in the spotlight. Co-produced by the band’s vocalist and Carl Brown, the album sounds massive, dense with thick layers of samples and background ambiance that only exemplify the band’s collective performances. In what is possibly the most overlooked part of the band however is how tight their rhythm section is. The drum and bass work carries entire sections of the record, with irresistible grooves played with just the right level of finesse. This combined with Vessel’s impressive range of vocal notes and techniques create for an engaging listen, even during the album’s tamer, less intricate moments.
From the unsettling synth-laden opener “Chokehold” to the dramatic stripped-back closer “Euclid”, ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ is an enthralling listen from start to finish and despite clocking in at 63 minutes, it’s absolutely worthy of the time that you give it. Because of its density, the album left me surprised on many occasions even after repeated listens, and completely blew any expectations I had out of the water. While it’s not perfect and some tracks are certainly weaker than others (“DYWTYLM” and “Granite” feel a bit underwhelming compared to aforementioned tracks namely), it’s one of the strongest releases of the year thus far and it’s easy to see why the album has so much hype surrounding it. Worship.
Sleep Token‘s highly-anticipated third album ‘Take Me Back To Eden‘ is out now via Spinefarm Records. Stream the album below.