Sleep Token have been teasing their fans with snippets of their new album, Take Me Back To Eden, for the entirety of 2023, and they didn’t overplay their hand.
Fans have already heard a bunch of singles from the record this year, but – trust me – you’ve heard nothing yet. What remains on the experience is a gorgeous symphony of tracks that are filled with mystique and wonder.
On top of that, running through TMBTE like a pulsing vein is an extreme attention to detail. It’s no surprise, considering Carl Brown has stitched its fleshy remains together – but, sonically, it is a vast change from the cult’s previous record, This Place Will Become Your Tomb.
Vessel II’s drums, for example, sometimes take a bit of a backseat to the rest of the music this time around. While the mighty, earth-shattering presence is still very much there in some of the meatier tracks (Vore, Ascensionism), digital drums take precedence a lot of the music (DYWTYLM, Ascensionism… again).
Likewise, delicate piano compositions sometimes take over from the devastating guitar riffs that peek through many of the songs. (Although, there are some disgusting riffs and breakdowns in the albums as a whole that will leave longtime fans utterly feral.)
Vessel’s voice is, once again, the main attraction. Their tone and intricate melodies are catchy, serene, powerful, and – at times – completely heart-breaking. Are You Really Okay?, a crawling ballad about suicide, has left me completely bereft (“I want to help you but I don’t know how”). If you have any connection to the subject matter, it might become a song that you actively avoid (“I cannot fix your wounds this time”). In a way, its visceral and autobiographical nature cuts too close to the bone. It’s beautiful. I never want to hear it again.
As fans will have already heard from songs such as Aqua Regia and Granite, the lyrics still reign supreme where Vessel is concerned. Are You Really Okay? is a particular favourite, but Rain and The Apparition are growers; poetic musings with layers that are begging to be unfolded and dissected.
Ascensionism – my favourite track on the record – is a perfect example of the skill and creativity the band so deftly wields. Beginning as a touching, puzzling ballad (“I could offer you a blacklit paradise”), it soon evolves into an incredible screamer of a track. Ascensionism is one of Sleep Token’s all-time greats.
The real meat of the album, though, is its final two tracks.
Sleep Token have started their own Marvel-style cinematic universe with their closers (title track Take Me Back To Eden and Euclid). They are not just excellent songs, with layers upon layers of musical style changes and ruinous lyrics from the Macabre Maestro, but they are the absolute culmination of their three albums thus far.
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Precise lyrical callbacks to previous tracks reveal themselves over numerous listens, and riffs create soundscapes that you just might recognise from early songs. Some people might find these references a little self-indulgent, but I feel it is a perfect final chapter for a band that has built such a cult-like following in just a few short years.
That’s perhaps the saddest part of Take Me Back To Eden: It feels like an ending. The last precious pages of an ancient tome; the final hallowed glimpse of someone as they board a plane. Vessel knows it, as well (“I guess it goes to show, does it not? That we’ve no idea what we’ve got until we lose it”). Vessel is saying goodbye. I don’t know if this is the end for the band – god, I really hope it’s not – but I could see Sleep Token dropping this almost-perfect album and disappearing into the ether once more.
Euclid gives me hope, though. The Elton John-esque closer is drenched in vocal trills, vocoder features and piano explorations that bring the record to a wonderful, wondrous conclusion. Vessel begs for another chance at redemption (“Run it back, give me five whole minutes”), at moving forward to a better place while acknowledging the formative parts of the journey thus far (“These ancient canopies we used to lay beneath”).
Take Me Back To Eden is an absolute triumph for Sleep Token fans. The music, lyrics, styles and themes featured within are exceptional, visceral and well thought-out. Some people may not like the band’s sway into techno music (The Summoning, DYWTYLM), but, like it or not, this is growth for the band. Vessel is no longer hiding behind riffs to stay within preset genre parameters. And, by the sounds of this, this might be the last thing we hear from the mysterious creatures for a while (or maybe ever?). Savour TMBTE, it’s one to slowly unfold over weeks.
Sleep Token – Take Me Back To Eden is out Friday, May 19, 2023.
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