Sundowning is a record of intrigue and mystery, not least because of the anonymous faces behind the band and this enigmatic twist has led to many discovering their presence in the British alternative scene. While their identities may be hidden, Sleep Token display their emotions for all to see on their debut album, a collection of songs which evoke much more than is first thought. The band released the twelve tracks that comprise the album during 2019, each one showing new facets and sounds before collecting them all together and naming it Sundowning.
The strength of the band lies in the beautiful vocals of the one named Vessel, a person who would rather their voice is the thing of import, rather than their appearance and so masks and cloaks and body make-up are utilised during live performances in order not to detract from the message. Vessel’s identity is a closely guarded secret but that doesn’t stop the internet machine from taking wild guesses that range from the probable to the bizarre. Sundowning draws from metal, but more than that it takes from indie electronica (think James Blake as the most obvious reference point) as its main thrust with the metallic elements embellishing emotional highs or deep lows such as on “The Offering,” where the heavy bass cuts through the growled vocals to push the song into harder territory.
The contrast to following song, “Levitate” is strong and it falls back into softer moments that are created by precise beats and Vessel’s wounded, clean singing. The track feels personal and it often seems that Sundowning is a record that is dealing with great loss, perhaps even death and so the resonance of such a song takes a short time to process within the space before “Dark Signs” begins. The biggest slight that could be directed towards Sundowning is that these pauses between songs are a little too long at times, likely caused by the way in which the songs were originally released and then being tailored for the album format – the fade outs can be distracting and the flow is occasionally interrupted but repeated listens will bear more reward.
The force of the metallic influence shows itself clearly in the aggressive tones of “Higher” and “Gods,” where Vessel’s voice turns into a harsh weapon that is edged with rage and venom and the latter of the two songs breathes with a fire that harkens back to the wave of nu-metal that struck in the late 90s/early 00s. These moments are used sparingly and it’s a move that truly pays off for Sleep Token – they are not relying on these huge shifts in sound or tone to create emotional heft and instead are using their words and electronic progressions to give the songs a hint of depth or beauty.
8.0 / 10
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