Just days into 2023, Sleep Token were at the epicentre of an unprecedented moment. Without any prior notice, they unleashed two new singles, ‘Chokehold’ and ‘The Summoning’ on consecutive days, and made themselves alternative music’s new favourite topic of conversation. The former’s jaw-dropping riffs and the latter’s sultry fusion of metal and funk had their Spotify monthly listeners quintupling in a fortnight, and yet, nobody knew who these masked musicians were. With their identities concealed beneath masks and cloaks, and both a rich, fantastical origin story and a huge cult fanbase behind them, Sleep Token were luring in the masses while letting their music speak for itself.
Doubters dismissed their shadowy anonymity and eclectic sound as a gimmick, but this band’s star isn’t burning out. The success of those singles was no accident. In fact, even beyond ‘Chokehold’ and ‘The Summoning’, there’s a whole other 48 minutes or so of bold, stunning music on ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ that will pour cold water on any suggestion that Sleep Token’s is a flash-in-the-pan success.
Plenty of artists of their ilk adopt a genre-fluid approach, but on ‘Take Me Back To Eden’, Sleep Token stretches that concept to its limit. While rooted in metal they reach further into other genres than most bands would dare. In theory, the darkly seductive, piano-laden R&B number ‘Aqua Regia’ shouldn’t rub up anywhere near a song like the lacerating black-metal inspired ‘Vore’, but the contrast in sounds between these two songs feels purposeful rather than confused.
Indeed, their unpredictability, more than ever, is part of their very essence, and there’s a lot here that seasoned Sleep Token fans will recognise as unchartered territory. They’ve even attempted their own staple arena-rock ballad in the form of ‘Are You Really Okay?’, for example, a beautiful but agonisingly raw song touching on mental health and self-harm that ends with frontman Vessel begging “Please don’t hurt yourself again.”
The sharpest turns arrive in two lengthy tracks, ‘Ascensionism’ and ‘Take Me Back To Eden’, which weave between starkly different sounds – hushed piano, airy synths, dagger-like djent, and bursts of R&B that toy with autotune and trap drums – with breathtaking grace. By treating each genre like a movement in a classical piece, nothing ever jars, where in less skilled hands, it so easily could.
There’s more risks on ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ than Sleep Token have ever taken before, but there’s never an opportunity to doubt whether anything they attempt will succeed. It’s an ambitious, emotional monolith of a record, with all the hallmarks of future classic status.
- Release date: May 19, 2023
- Record label: Spinefarm