Date: Thursday 18th November 2021
Venue: Academy 2, Manchester
Supports: A.A. Williams
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Sometimes there are gigs that you see advertised that you have to think twice about whether you want to grab tickets to see the show and then there are others that the moment you hear a whisper of you’re already getting ready to buy them. Sleep Token certainly fall in the latter category for me and with their previous Isolation Sessions tour cancelled it was a no brainer that I’d be seeing them again as they ventured up north to Academy 2 in Manchester. With the release of their latest album ‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’ and shows at both the Download Festival Pilot and the Hevy Music Awards, it was no surprise that the show was a sell-out. Having seen them before (Review can be found here!) there was no doubt this was going to be a special show and it certainly delivered.
Before Sleep Token could take to the stage however there was a support set from the fantastic A.A. Williams to open up the night. Whilst she wasn’t an artist that I had come across before playing live she was one who’s reputation certainly preceded her. Every time I’ve seen someone talk about her its always been in a positive way and now I see why. Slow building guitars were layered over brooding vocals and it worked brilliantly to bring each song through to it’s climax. Unfortunately the main vocals were hidden a little quieter in the mix however thanks to her powerful vocal performance this only really affecter her conversations in between tracks. Hit after hit flowed through the set with ‘Cold’ from her recently release EP ‘arco’ being a standout track for me. This lack of crowd interaction worked twofold and actually worked to help build the atmosphere in the room. This was backed up with a dazzling light show which backlit the whole band throughout just adding to the mood. Save for a few slightly rowdy drunks in the room, it was clear that everyone was captivated by the performance and by the time final track ‘Melt’ hit there was a real feeling of awe as the track came to a crushing end. As artists go, A.A Williams wouldn’t be one that came up on my regular playlists however after years of people telling me to check her out I’m definitely kicking myself that I hadn’t sooner. A brilliant set to start the night and it definitely worked perfectly to set the ominous atmosphere for tonight’s headliners.
With the crowd packing out the 950 capacity Academy 2 venue, you could tell there was a real excitement in the air for what everyone was about to witness next. as the ominous noises played through the speakers the crowd all hushed and Sleep Token took to the stage. Launching straight into the opening track of their latest album ‘Atlantic’ with a slow piano melody the crowd instantly surged forward to get a piece of the action. It was clear from the reaction that ‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’ had gone down alongside ‘Sundowning’ as another incredible album from Sleep Token. And just like the album as the swell kicked in halfway through the track, the goosebumps stood up strong on my arm. Following along with the next two tracks from the album in ‘Hypnosis’ and ‘Mine’ served as a real introduction into the new music in a live environment and I’d even go as far as to say sounded better here than it did on the record, if that’s not too hard to believe. Just when you thought the start was breath-taking enough track four saw the band launch into one of their oldest but most loved track – ‘Jaws’. The crowd singing along nearly matched Vessel for volume and showed just how much of an impact the band left on everyone that had listened to them. Jumping between all their EP’s and albums the band worked in a slower section with the likes of ‘Dark Signs’ and ‘Nazareth’ leaving the crowd in awe at not only the phenomenal vocals of Vessel but of each member of the band’s own personal talent and ability. Not content with keeping things slow, the band then switched it all back up to eleven with the crushing ‘Sugar’ coming out to play. Whilst not the heaviest track on ‘Sundowning’, it always gets stepped up a notch when played live and opened up a huge mosh in the centre of the room with crowd surfers flying across the top of the crowd at the same time. Following ‘Sugar’ would be a tough task for any setlist planner however the trio of Singles released prior to ‘TPWBYT’ served the night perfectly with ‘The Love You Want’ being the standout track and one in which you can really see just how talented the Sleep Token drummer is with an immaculate performance through the song just showing that it doesn’t need to be a fast and heavy song to have breathtaking drums. As one final track before the band left the stage it was left to ‘Higher’ to close out the set and boy did it leave the show ending on one hell of a high. Already elevated by the fact it’s my personal favourite, the buld up and release of the track served as the perfect storm to end the night. With the repetition of the line “The debt that I owe” getting louder and louder, the crowd were well and truly hyped up and as the breakdown came crashing in so did the mammoth sized mosh pits. As the track came to a brutal end and the band left the stage it was clear that there was still more to come as the echos and clicks played through the PA system.
After a brief pause for the crowd to try and work out what was still left to come, Sleep Token returned and launched straight into the first track released from ‘Sundowning’, the briefly named ‘The Night Does Not Belong To God’. The crowd we’re in full force for the night though and they sang back at the top of their voices to fill the room with noise. The levels of which were only outdone with the cheer as the band launched into arguably their most well known track ‘The Offering’. Yet again in true Sleep Token style the heavy build up served as the perfect crowd pleaser and the bodies of crowd surfers soared across the crowd and over the barriers. The heavy breakdown of the track against its slower sections still serve to show both sides of the band with soft sections leading into super heavy screams and chugging guitars. Not content on sending things out in usual style, Sleep Token had one final trick up their sleeves. With the band leaving the stage to leave Vessel standing on his own with a guitar, he launched into ‘Missing Limbs’. As the closer on their latest album it worked perfectly to draw the set to a close. Along side the incredible lyrics, it served as a fantastic show Vessel’s vocals keeping the entire room captivated and hooked on every word. The impact of the track was crazy to see with not a dry eye around in the crowd. As the replacement to ‘Bloodsport’ for the final track it had big shoes to fill but damn did it do a great job of it and to no-ones surprise there was a moment after the song had finished and Vessel left the stage where the crowd as just stood in silence taking in the last hour or so of music before they left the venue.
For those that have never seen Sleep Token play live before consider this a shining recommendation to catch them and for those that have take this a sign to go and catch them again as they’ve only got better. Each member of the band brings something special to the table and as an anonymous collective it’s hard to credit them appropriately but all three of the band members pulled off a incredible show tonight and flew around the stage with a huge passion throughout the set, the backing choir sounded amazing and last but not least Vessel was phenomenal as always with his huge vocal range and musicanship on the piano and with the guitar. This band really are something special and definitely a shoe in for one of my favourites of all time based solely on how unique and fascinating they are. There is really a track from everyone from Sleep Token and all that’s left to say to close out this review is one simple word. WORSHIP.