Sleep Token switch it up with new ritual, ‘The Way That You Were’.
Usually, most Sleep Token songs all follow a very similar yet effective formula. Just vocals and keys/pianos for the intro; bring in some added notes and atmos or maybe another vocal line as the verses continue; drop in the bass and some percussion as the song grows; establish a groove and then really build it up; then reach that dynamic peak with heavy breakdowns and djentier guitars, layering all past elements of the song on thick to make something once-humble now dynamic and explosive for the finale. Basically, Sleep Token’s songs so often morph from melodic and minimal over to heavy and dense, is what I’m getting at here.
While this formula has resulted in some pretty goddamn amazing songs (‘Thread The Needle‘, ‘Jericho‘), the group’s approach is now quite expected for many listeners. They definitely know what works for them and as such, adhered to that strongly on their first two EPs, ‘One‘ and ‘Two‘, respectively. However, previous single ‘Jaws‘ started to really uproot this sonic methodology, and now their latest track, ‘The Way That You Were‘, takes it all one step further. Over mourning church organs, the band’s singer, named ‘Vessel’, sings emotionally and dramatically for the intro of ‘The Way That You Were‘. However, as the piece goes on, the organs remain central to the song’s core and flow, as triumphant vocal layers creep in and out; making it a warm, soulful hymn-like creation. No heavy riffs, no breakdowns, no percussion; just an eerie, striking composition of organs and vocals. Thus making something different for the band in the process.
However, what the track lacks in down-tuned riffs and heavier instrumentals, it more than makes up for with heavy feelings and deep emotions. It’s a longing, sorrowful piece, seemingly about remembering someone the way they once were, not what they might’ve become, but still embracing their hurt, their damage. It’s all very open to interpretation, and I can see how this could be taken in different ways. From maybe remembering an old lover before they lost their way, opening up to someone about how far gone you’ve grown, or even remembering a passed over friend or family member and keeping their memory – your memory of them – alive. It’s a call to “take off the bandage“, as the song itself states. Which is kinda ironic, as this band all wears masks to keep their identities unknown.
Yet that interpretation of the mythology of their music and lyrics are what makes Sleep Token so engaging to listen to, so exciting to follow and watch. With returning flower motifs and faces from the ‘Jaws‘ film clip, there is definitely a wider narrative at play here. Fucked if I know what it is though! But as always, I’m so keen to see just where this band can take things from here, as ‘The Way That You Were‘ feels like its the prelude to something else, something larger. Worship and reminisce about how things used to be below: