Sleep Token Sundowning Deluxe Review

Photo Credit: Louder

It will probably surprise no one that I am a fan of bands with gimmicks. I firmly believe that having a gimmick can bring an overlooked aspect to bands, that being "theatrics". For so long, bands like KISS, Slipknot, and even Babymetal have been utilizing the power of their gimmicks to justify adding non-music elements to shows and giving fans an interesting other aspect to explore.

Such is the case with UK based collective Sleep Token, who you may have noticed topped my "Best of" list for 2019.

I have been extremely interested to see that not many people have been talking about this record, and, for the life of me, I cannot understand why. Of the incredibly sparse reviews I've seen, many have given it a "meh", and I have been left to sit here and tell you nothing since it's well outside the "review period" for the record.

So, imagine my surprise and delight when the band releases a deluxe edition of their 2019 record Sundowning with bonus tracks, and thus give me an ample opportunity to discuss them and tell you why everyone else is wrong for not already knowing this band inside and out.

Now what do you need to know about Sleep Token going in? Well, Sundowning is their third release after two eps titled One and Two respectively, so obvious big points on originality there. They are signed to Spinefarm records. Each one of their songs seem to be represented by a symbol that has a meaning... I suppose. They have an unclear backstory about how their "collective" is made up of members who worship a god which can most closely be associated with the human term of "Sleep". They also wear slightly horrifying masks along with hoods and are fronted by a lead singer known only as Vessel, further adding to the culty vibe.

At this point, I hear what you're saying, "Andrew, this is all basic band stuff. If I had a nickel for every band that is fronted by horrifying mask cultists, why I'd be rich. Why even bring it up?" I'm simply painting a picture about the unconventional nature of the band. For instance, I could also mention how they released their album one song at a time starting at the Summer Solstice in 2019 and releasing a track at sundown Greenwich Mean Time every two weeks leading up to the album release date. This makes for a slightly confusing Spotify entry, but an interesting way to do a release. Now why would they do this? I don't know and since they barely do interviews, no one has really been able to ask them.

But now that I've described the look, let's talk about the music. So what does this cult-like band with weird masks sound like? Surely some doom subgroup, especially with all this talk about "Sleep", right?

Well, you'd be real wrong, cowboy.

Overall, the record does have a vaguely sinister, foreboding feel but a sort of genre blending that is missing from most bands and releases. It's an interesting combo of muted metal guitars overtop of some soaring pop R&B-esque vocals, and a nice array of soothing piano parts with all kinds of other genres thrown in between.

For example, the album never fully goes into a super heavy territory. But, does tip its toes into the pool at times, such as interspersed through the "The Offering" or the kick off of "Gods" that almost gets downright djenty. Some songs are lighter, more mellow affairs, such as "Levitate" or "Drag Me Under". It even jumps into some trip hop parts with tracks like "Dark Signs" or "Give".

I did mention some new tracks on the deluxe edition, so what are those about? Well, honestly they're really just some add ons to this. All recorded, as they state "from the room below", they are all piano and vocal tracks, one being "Blood Sport" from the record, one original song, "Shelter", and two covers, one of Billie Ellish's "When the Party's Over" and oddly a Tina Turner classic "I Want to Dance With Somebody."

While these are interesting additions to this version of the record, they're obviously different production and stripped down nature make them feel like an additional EP. These songs feel as though they have been tacked on to the record, rather than a more natural set of songs that compliment what's already there. Still, they do give an interesting idea of how these songs may have originally been written and highlight the piano ability of Vessel, so it's not like they're totally out of place.

So, if you're looking for a good mix of genres coming together to make a wholly interesting mix of tracks, you can't really go wrong with Sundowning. It definitely adds a much needed breath of fresh air to metal, and if nothing else that’s worth your listen.


Andrew Wieler, aka Andrew Wixq, is CJLOs Metal Music Director and hosts Grade A Explosives every Sunday at 4pm.