It’s only fitting that I write this review after being in the throes of insomnia and wild, intense dreams. Everything about this Grand Rapids-based act is centered on themes of sleep, reality, identity, and the hazy edges that define all three. In fact, that ethos even works its way into some of the most interesting songwriting and production choices I’ve heard this year: Alias sounds like it’s part of a series of interconnected dreams, though their relation is both completely obvious and just beyond reach (as most night films are). By turns, portions of Sleep Waker will feel eminently familiar while also wholly new and distinct. If you love thinking and reflecting along to music that makes you move, Sleep Waker might just be perfect for you.
Musically, the band play a very modern version of metalcore that fuses different schools of heavy (nu-metal, tech, and industrial) into a devastating package. Echoes of Architects, Silent Planet, Loathe, Bring Me The Horizon, and even Cane Hill are the lights at the end of these dream tunnels, siren songs of familiarity that help ground this musical thought experiment. It doesn’t hurt that each of these ten songs tackles different directions, while offering a riff, melody, or mood that serves as a nexus point to what came before and what will come after.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the emphasis on excellent ideas over catchiness leads to an album that feels initially cold. Again, it’s a point in the band’s favor as it relates to thematic focus but one that detracts from the songs’ immediacy. This is not a record you play in the background while doing work or walking, it’s something that almost demands your focus.
The reflections on dreams, artificial intelligence, dementia, and mood-altering pharmaceuticals are the cocktail that opens up your mind to the depths beyond the choppy riffs and haunting ambiance. Alias will soothe you if you let it, and that’s arguably the record’s best strength – once it gets its hooks on you, it’s best to let the ride happen rather than trying to control it.
Ultimately, Sleep Waker succeed where a lot of other newer metalcore acts falter. While the de-emphasis on pit-starting riffs or catchy choruses may turn off some, there’s a lot of musical meat to savor if you give the record a chance. Those who are patient with their core will love what this Michigan band have done here. Alias sounds like future-core, and if the talent on display is any indication, Sleep Waker should very well be in the upper echelon of this modern wave of metalcore.
Order the album at this location.