Sage (n): a profoundly wise person; someone venerated for the possession of wisdom, judgment, and experience.
Naming your band after “wise ones” is a risky move, but let’s leave no doubt: Sacramento-based Sages surely show their smarts on the impressive Sleepwalker. Combining modern progressive metal with spacey hard rock and post-hardcore (a la Deftones and 30 Seconds to Mars) proved to be a decision ripe with sound judgment, as the band is clearly adept at marrying groovy djent riffs with eyes-in-the-sky hooks. Sages’ style fits somewhere between the 90s rock/djent fusion of Dayshell and the cinematic alt-metal of Starset.
The concept behind Sleepwalker ties in existential themes and is based on spiritual psychology and shamanism, so there’s no surprise it’s filled with uplifting lyrics. The sort of generic song titles hint at the somewhat vague platitudes held within, but it’s a credit to Sages that the album doesn’t really feel overwrought or overly sentimental. The inspirational lyrics work well in tandem with the music, creating the type of tunes that easily win over the listener. Take “Save Yourself”, with its borderline tacky chorus, and the fact that its’ easily the more straightforward rock song on the record (the Saosin influence is a nice touch, though); by all accounts, the song should be a failure, but the hook ever so djently weaves itself into your noggin, to the point that you just give yourself away to its impact.
That’s a nice metaphor for Sleepwalker as a whole. There are some occasionally weak vocals, definitely some average lyrics, but the energy, passion, and execution make for a truly wonderful and empowering release. Sages’ marriage of heady hard rock and melodic djent creates a style that is just plain fun, and adds some nice levity to the proceedings. The band is full of promise and potential, as it’s easy to see something truly phenomenal coming from Sages in the near future, but something just below musical nirvana is one Hell of a place to start from. Sleepwalker is chocked full of wise choices.