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Sleep Token – Take Me Back to Eden Cover


Album Review: SLEEP TOKEN Take Me Back to Eden

6.5 Reviewer

England’s Sleep Token have had a somewhat meteoric rise since forming in 2016, with their cryptic costumes and identities—alongside their blend of alternative metal and indie pop—catching the attention of millions. 2019’s Sundowning was a pensively beautiful journey full of mournful soundscapes, electronic rockers, and occasionally belligerent detours. Although 2021’s This Place Will Become Your Tomb largely stuck to that template, it also saw the group doubling down on their commercial tendencies. Consequently, it had less in common with, say, Periphery and Cult of Luna and more with Imagine Dragons, Bastille, and X Ambassadors.

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Granted, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as any genre can be great if the artist does something special with it. That said, Sleep Token’s sophomore outing felt relatively safer and blander than its predecessor. Sadly, third LP Take Me Back to Eden (which concludes the thematic/conceptual trilogy) continues that trend. It’s performed and produced extremely well—and there are certainly a lot of rewarding moments—but overall, it’s their most standard and forgettable work thus far.

Opener “Chokehold” embodies one of the band's greatest strengths: anthemically moody statements built upon artfully evolving arrangements and robust singing. Specifically, vocalist Vessel sounds like a grief-stricken preacher sermonizing the Rapture as dissonant keyboard tones underscore his every confession. Before long, programmed percussion, drums, piano notes, haunting backing chants, acoustic guitar arpeggios, and belligerent riffs erupt around him, yielding a gorgeously volatile landscape of textures and emotions. It’s certainly among their most powerful pieces to date.

Another highlight comes from the synth-laden, quirky, and aggressive “The Summoning,” whose balance of heavenly and hellish attributes is arguably even stronger and more enticing. Later, “Aqua Regia” is essentially a very tasteful piano ballad decorated with transcendental electronic coatings, angelic harmonies, and clean guitar chords. It’s a clear standout in terms of both quality and uniqueness, as is the epic scope of the lengthy title track (which features some of Sleep Token’s loveliest melodies and instrumentation). Closer “Euclid” is the requisite temperamental yet ultimately uplifting coda you’d expect from an album like this, with its final choral passages and piano patterns radiating bittersweet closure.

Despite being just as passionately executed and sleekly realized, much of what remains is simply less interesting and particular.

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For instance, third single “Granite” and sixth single “DYWTYLM” are neither engaging melodically nor musically, with ordinary backings supporting lackluster lyricisms and dull singing from Vessel. “Vore” and “Rain” are slightly nuanced and tonally dynamic by comparison, but they don’t really do anything markedly engaging or invigorating, either. Then, the auto-tuned vocals and hip-hop elements of “Ascensionism” and “The Apparition” make them fairly ordinary and run-of-the-mill. As for “Are You Really Okay?”, well, it offers little more than a sappy mainstream pop-rock ballad.

Take Me Back to Eden is not a bad album, as it’s extremely well produced, arranged, and sung from start to finish. However, it is a disappointingly sterile and forgettable one, even when judged only against its two full-length precursors. Aside from some overt standouts, there are not enough of the characteristic subtitles and techniques that made Sleep Token’s past works (especially Sundowning) feel like impactful and innovative journeys. Instead, Take Me Back to Eden largely feels like a collection of generic compositions that—despite having some Sleep Token sheen—could've been created by any number of other artists.

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