Release Date 24th September 2021
Label Spinefarm Records
FFO: Leprous, Deftones, TesseracT
A deity known as Sleep appears in a dream. A masked collective with a prophet known only as Vessel emerge to spread His message. Sleep Token are born and, with their debut album Sundowning, made an indelible mark on the scene. Their atmospheric, emotive and genre-bending music has inspired devotion in a rapidly-growing fanbase and their second album, This Place Will Become Your Tomb, is sure to leave music fans just as dumbfounded as before, if not even more so.
While Sundowning’s rollout was carefully choreographed with the album concept, each track arriving fortnightly at sundown, with their second album the band have taken the more traditional approach of teasing then releasing singles ahead of the full release on September 24th. This gradual unveiling, though, is the only traditional thing about This Place Will Become Your Tomb. Opener ‘Atlantic’ begins with lone piano, Vessel’s soulful tones accompanying as it paints a bleak picture with lines like “bodies buried in the water” and “flood me like Atlantic”. It’s atypical, but rapturously engaging all the same as the sheer emotion threatens to overwhelm. When it does come crashing down, there’s a brief moment before as if the seafloor drops away and we’re suddenly in the Mariana Trench as the guitars enter, crushing like the depths.
‘Hypnosis’ brings its heft to bear from the outset, cascading in and sweeping away all in its path, while the verses offer brief respite, calming before the waters crash in again. Lead single ‘Alkaline’ may have been fairly standard Sleep Token fare, with its gradual build from minimalist synths to full-blown grandeur replete with crushingly heavy guitars but it’s clear that an ocean separates them from their contemporaries. On the flip side of this, second single ‘The Love You Want’ sees Sleep Token at their most poppy and their most vulnerable; “your heart is locked up / and I still get the combination wrong / or are you simply waiting / to save your love for someone I am not” is a gut wrenching line when delivered in Vessel’s emotional croon, while the chorus features handclaps coupled with thumping drums. This eclecticism is characteristic of them, as is its eventual introduction of guitars that elevate the chorus to stadium-filling proportions.
That’s not to say every song follows the same formula of a soft start before building to a heavy conclusion; ‘Fall For Me’ has layers upon layers, Vessel’s voice drenched in reverb and synthesising effects. It’s an arresting change from what’s come before though offering little in the way of emotional respite. In another change of pace, Sleep Token channel their inner Deftones and Cult Of Luna influences in ‘Telomeres’ and ‘High Water’ respectively; the former utilises dreamy soundscapes and vocal lines and even finds space to drop in an uncharacteristic guitar solo before swelling once again. The latter, however, dives headfirst into the churning waters of post metal as well as including a rare appearance of Vessel’s harsh vocals as he screams “I can’t hold myself together”; there’s a sense of finality as the waters close overhead. We close with ‘Missing Limbs’, an acoustic guitar and piano-led piece that Vessel croons softly over before collapsing into itself in what’s almost a feedback loop.
This Place Will Become Your Tomb is a giant leap forward from Sundowning; it’s more varied than before, the soundscapes are more expansive and Vessel’s tone and range, both musically and emotionally, is as brilliant as ever. The biggest issue is that, whereas Sundowning had a clear narrative with its take on dementia and mental decline, This Place… feels more like a collection of songs than a cohesive album, despite each song being so engaging. The experience as a whole is immersive and there’s no jarring changes or transitions, but the flow isn’t quite there. Despite this, it’s still a clear progression from Sundowning and continues to show exactly why Sleep Token are one of the UK’s most eclectic and exciting bands.