By Rich Hobson
( Metal Hammer )
Sublime pop melodies, juddering tech metal and sexy bass drops: these are the best songs by metal's new favourite enigmatic band, Sleep Token
Ever since they first emerged in 2016, Sleep Token have been an unknowable enigma and fast-rising sensation at the heart of contemporary metal. Ducking interviews almost entirely, the band have nonetheless built a mystique around a sense of theatricality and lore that refers to the entity Sleep, each song (and video) offering breadcrumbs on what it's all about.
But, even putting aside metal's love for masks and theatricality (Slipknot, Ghost, GWAR - there's plenty of precedent for it), Sleep Token's music is a fascinating mixture of soul, R&B, djent and tech metal elements that makes them unlike just about anybody else. Now with over 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify, we figured it high time to pick out the ten best Sleep Token songs - so far...
Calcutta (Two, 2017)
To date, the only interview Sleep Token have ever given was to Hammer in support of then new single Calcutta in 2017. Released just five months after their debut EP One, Calcutta upped production values and honed in on the ethereal melodies that sit at the heart of Sleep Token's sound.
The instrumentation is minimalist for the first half, but builds to a crushing crescendo that has since become an oft-repeated and beloved motif of their songwriting. Featured on a Metal Hammer cover CD in August that year, the description simply read: "progressive beauty. But who are Sleep Token?"
Gods (Sundowning, 2020)
Given just how expansive Sleep Token's sound is, it's hard to imagine the band writing a song like Gods these days. The band's usual melodious and progressive inclinations are dropped almost entirely for straight-up brutish metal, Vessel snarling and howling in ways that would do the likes of While She Sleeps or Loathe proud.
Granted, the melodic segments do eventually creep in - feeling like the song has skipped to entirely different realms - but this song is proof positive that Sleep Token know how to bring the heavy.
Fall For Me (This Place Will Become Your Tomb, 2021)
Sleep Token's use of minimalism is as crucial to their sound as any stylistic flourishes they might throw into the mix. Fall For Me rides almost entirely on Vessel's incredible voice, just shy of two-and-a-half minutes of digitally manipulated vocals that can't hide the fact this song is beautifully immersive.
No major surprise that Fall For Me became a big sing-along hit in the band's setlist, its addictive hook of "god I wish you were here" perfectly set to be howled by thousands of fans every night of their sold-out 2021 UK tour.
When The Bough Breaks (One, 2016)
Sleep Token's vision wasn't fully realised on their three-track debut EP One, but they certainly had a blueprint for how they wanted to develop. Closing track When The Bough Breaks sees luscious vocal harmonies form the foundation of an epic, instruments not even appearing until the song hits the two-minute mark.
From there, quiet, contemplative instrumentals steadily build out beneath brittle, high-noted vocal harmonies, the song taking on an almost choral tone. By the time it kicks in and things turn somewhat sinister, When The Bough Breaks feels truly epic, a self-contained musical journey that is simaltaneously emotionally lifting and devasatating.
The Love You Want (This Place Will Become Your Tomb, 2021)
With their second album This Place Will Become Your Tomb, Sleep Token had truly crossed over into being a modern metal phenomenon. Placed at no. 17 in the 2021 Metal Hammer albums of the year list, we were all collectively put under Sleep Token's spell with a bewitching mixture of tech metal, R&B and emotional soul proving utterly irresistible.
The Love You Want has all the enormity and production values of a chart-topping hit, complete with insidiously catchy hooks that lodge in the brain long after you've heard the song. All of the core elements of Sleep Token's sound are present and correct, each polished to the point of perfection to show just what this band could do when it comes to building their own sonic empire.
Chokehold (Single, 2023)
Sleep Token hit the ground running in 2023, surprise dropping two singles in the same week in the form of Chokehold and The Summoning. Sending fans into a flurry of excitement weeks barely weeks before they were due to head out on a(nother) sold out UK tour, Chokehold helped build a sufficient internet buzz around the group that the rest of the world started cottoning on, tipping their Spotify monthly listeners stats past the 1 million mark.
Tonally, there's a lot of despair and darkness to Chokehold that, in part at least, feels reminiscent of more soulful Slipknot fare like Vermillion. Sleep Token are undeniably distinct in their craft, however, and there's no questioning who is behind Chokehold's propulsive, juddering breakouts and stunning melodies.
Hypnosis (This Place Will Become Your Tomb, 2021)
Sleep Token's pop ambitions were realised more fully on This Place Will Become Your Tomb than anything else the band had produced to date, the production highlighting just how spectacular their compositions are.
But while the melodic sides became more apparent, Sleep Token didn't skimp on heft. Hypnosis brings crushing walls of distorted riffs that could almost sit comfortably amongst the shoegaze inspired maximalism of Deftones or Loathe, the band carefully balancing a sense of percussive, propulsive heaviness and fragile beauty to stunning effect.
The Offering (Sundowning, 2020)
Even when they were playing (comparatively) tiny venues, Sleep Token were setting themselves up with the kind of crowd-baiting anthems that could send fans into a frenzy. The metronome beat at the top of The Offering begs to be clapped by thousands, building into a deliciously satisfying groove and grind that is sure to elicit mosh pits wherever the band go.
The mystery surrounding the band only adds to the menacing aura of The Offering, Vessel's whispered insistence that we "take a bite" feeling like a tantalising offer from the Garden of Eden's serpent. It's a massive song, with a sense of cathartic release that shows Sleep Token's ascendancy was never in question.
The Summoning (Single, 2023)
Before January was even through, we'd heard four tracks of Sleep Token's upcoming third album. Building on the colossal buzz of their previous two singles, The Summoning showed that Sleep Token aren't just one of metal's hottest new bands - they're apparently its sexiest.
The scale shifts decidedly in favour of heaviness on The Summoning, the band employing screams and juddering riffs that make them feel like a more pop-conscious Meshuggah. Building on the anthemic edge of their last album and swinging some serious heft before dropping a bass-warping interlude that helped make the song a TikTok sensation.
Alkaline (This Place Will Become Your Tomb, 2021)
At just shy of 9 million streams on Spotify alone, it's fair to say This Place Will Become Your Tomb single Alkaline has become a stand-out anthem among Sleep Token's canon. Subtle infusions of R&B in the backing vocals lie beneath a snaking, twitching tech-metal riff that staggers forward like a ghoulish horror movie villain, all the while propelled along by Vessel's captivating voice.
And that's to say nothing of the song's psychic powered horror-style video, playing up to the inherent mystery and edge of the band's lore, Vessel seemingly uses telekinetic powers to twist limbs and strangle armed hasmat-suited goons. By the end, we're still none the wiser, but know one thing for sure: you can't fuck with Sleep Token.
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Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.