Do you ever stumble upon a record at exactly the right point in your music listening life? I've spent this entire week re-digesting the discographies of bands like Drudkh and Agalloch, only to stumble into Markus Stock of Empyrium's long dormant side project, Sun Of The Sleepless. This is a record that builds on the legacies of those bands but also hints at so much more. Sun Of The Sleepless are a band who take some of the core black and post black metal concepts that bands like Empyrium and Agalloch pioneered and infuse it with a fair bit of their native Scandinavian culture, in order to create something truly special. In an increasingly broken world and one where uglier and more oppressive styles of metal are starting to dominate, Sun Of The Sleepless have come out with To The Elements a truly majestic record that will charm the listener and remind many of us why we fell in love with the third wave of black metal in the first place.
Now don't think that just because I've tied Sun Of The Sleepless in with third wave of black metal and Cascadian black metal bands that they are truly indicative of the style. In fact Sun Of The Sleepless eagerly move well beyond those influences into something far greater. As much as one might hear the influence of bands like Ulver on the record there are also frequently touches of rawer black metal, adding a sense of danger to the album. The Bathory-worshipping bridge of "In The Realm Of The Bar"' (Complete with a wonderful "blech") reminds us that Sun Of The Sleepless are fully aware of where they came from. Markus Stock's greatest triumph on this record though his combined use of choir's and synths to really couch To The Elements in a much larger and more exciting historical context. There is a sense of power here that traces its roots far beyond the arrival of Christianity into Northern Europe, it's an atavistic sort of grandeur that communicates its message through distinctly modern techniques.
It's important to note too that this record is 13 years in the making, something that makes the sheer scope of the product a little more sensible. Nevertheless, it's rare that you find this type of black metal, that so perfectly balances so many different sides of the genre and refines it into a greater and almost transcendent whole. Sun Of The Sleepless perfectly distills many elements of the folkier cutting edge of black metal and runs them through an almost cinematic writing style in order to unleash something that can't help but to fascinate. There is a sense of triumph here perhaps best exemplified by the soaring guitar lines on "Phoenix Rise". It's almost as if the band has conquered new vistas and we are all just trying to catch up. In a world where we are all looking for the next big thing in black metal, Sun Of The Sleepless captures the spirit of the genre and my heart.