So much more than just another hardcore band.
Hardcore is easily one of the more exciting scenes in alternative music today. It’s a genre thriving with invention, with bands like Code Orange dishing out dark, glitchy industrial hammer blows; Turnstile pushing energetic, alt-rock fusion. and even Angel Du$t throwing out the rule book entirely with a welcome dose of goofy fun. There really is something out there for everyone in hardcore right now.
Yet those are well-known American bands, though, so what about the rest of the world? Is that same dynamism and excitement present elsewhere in other emerging bands? Step forward Sleep Talk from Adelaide, South Australia, whose debut LP, ‘Everything In Colour’, dropped back in May.
[caption id="attachment_1106376" align="aligncenter" width="760"] Sleep Talk, 2019. [/caption]
The introduction to opening track 'Lauritzen' is pondering and spacious, with lightly feathered drums building up to lush and infectious lead guitar playing. Soon enough though, a growling bass line fades in alongside Jacob Clement's searing vocal takes, teasing the underlying savagery, before a monstrous driving riff blasts in for a heavy breakdown. 'The Sun' follows up with a calming, echoing riff yet that quiet calm is soon broken with a stinging juxtaposition of raw vocals. The vocals drop away for an extended period to make way for some soothing instrumentals, all before those burning screams come roaring back with pummelling drums and surging lead guitars. Jacob's rasping vocal line of "what if the sun swallows me whole and I don’t get to grow old" is a real high point, as we’re treated to the added depth of sung backing vocals as the song closes out.
After these initial two tracks, it’s quite clear that Sleep Talk are not going for the constant rage often associated with hardcore bands. They’re more than happy to let the songs breathe and build before reaching a crescendo of colliding sounds. Their style is more akin to a more classic post-hardcore mix of melody and fury but combined with some of the more open and airy aspects of post-rock. Which is something that we also see with 'Slowfade', where the band pushes those post-hardcore elements even further with a melodic chorus of clean vocals flying over stabbing riffs. In the verse, the screams are dealt out over grunting bass and churning riffs eventually giving way to slightly out-of-tune reverberating picking that all adds an extra taste of anti-melody to the brutish vocals. There are even some uplifting punk rock lead guitars in the closing seconds, too. It's one busy song, layering itself up with many different ideas.
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The title track for 'Everything In Colour' is a nice and easy, alternative slacker; coming to the party with sing along moments galore. The breathy vocals throughout the breakdown are just the right side of creepy and the vocal hooks and key changes after the songs hardcore mid-section get even better with each listen. Of these first four tracks on the record, only one is over three minutes long, but 'If I Die and 'New Tradition break that trend. 'If I Die is one part crushing monster and one part sorrowful dream. The ghostly clean vocals that harmonise with the screaming, set the mood so perfectly and there’s an emotional intensity to the guitars throughout. It’s a true highlight and bound to be a long-time favourite in their sets and amongst fans who know what's up.
However, 'New Tradition isn’t as memorable, sadly, one of the few tracks that feels overly long. That’s due to the main vocal hook not being particularly engaging, yet there’s still plenty of intensity on offer and when the screams come in, they’re as emotionally charged as ever. For me though, it’s still one of the weaker moments. But whereas 'New Tradition was a touch disappointing, 'Shadow' returns with real style. Most of the piece serves as a build-up to a crushing crescendo of screams and grooving guitars in its final thirty seconds, but the journey to get there, despite being quite short, is perhaps even better. The deep, brooding vocals are a stand-out aspect, and the sparsity of the guitars and percussion makes it all wonderfully bleak.
In contrast to much of 'Everything In Colour', 'Allergic To The World' opens with a traditional, chugging ‘hardcore’ riff, but even at just under two minutes, it still manages to shake that moniker off with an infusion of subtle yet heavier metalcore. It's the shortest track on the record but it still leaves such a lasting impression.
The band's self-titled song is a fitting choice given what it musically states. The intro reveals the band’s skilled ability to meld melodic instrumentals with savage vocals, and the middle section especially shows Sleep Talk's knack for completely smashing moments of clarity to pieces with intensive interruptions. The ending then proves that brutality can still, somehow, sound uplifting. It’s a very real credit to Sleep Talk that they don’t feel the need to go too heavy on the singing, using them as backing elements to accentuate the screaming. Vocally and instrumentally, these guys know what they're doing, and they're doing it all really well.
The beautiful opening to 'The New Year' could so easily have started melodically but, similarly to the almighty Deafheaven, they instead use abrasive vocals to contrast with their use of tonally lighter instrumentals. It also means that when the cleans finally do come in, they feel all the sweeter for it. This is no more evident than on album closer, 'Kill', which uses the heaviest singing usage of any track so far. The song kicks off with visceral screams before moving into a brilliant call-and-response section where the screams are followed by ghostly cleans. 'Tis a great way to wrap things up, honestly.
At only 33 minutes, 'Everything In Colour' goes by in a flash but genuinely feels longer while you’re listening to it. Normally, when an album feels long, that’s a criticism but in this case, it’s a positive credit to the sheer quality and diversity of each track. I’d honestly never heard of Sleep Talk before this review, and prior to spinning ‘Everything In Colour’, other than some vague assumptions conjured up by their description on Bandcamp as a ‘rock/hardcore band’, I didn’t know what to expect. Colour me pleasantly surprised and then some to now learn that Sleep Talk’s debut LP is an accomplished mixture of vibrant post-hardcore and stunning post-rock with occasional heavier, dynamic flourishes that pay tribute to a host of other genres and sounds.
The Adelaide-based quintet's style is not overwhelmingly original, yes, but there’s still so much diversity in the layered instrumentation and impassioned vocals to keep things interesting and engaging throughout. Jacob Clement's hardcore screams might be a turn-off for some, considering the sheer beauty of what’s underneath said vocals, but for others, like me, it's perfect balanced; potentially acting as a great entry point into a very exciting corner of music for those far less initiated. 'Everything in Colour' is not a perfect album, as 'New Tradition' marks a slight dip in quality, yet it still comes damn close. 'Everything In Colour' is a resounding artistic statement from a young but talented band, and it is well worth your time.
2. The Sun
4. Everything In Colour
5. If I Die
6. New Tradition
8. Allergic To The World
9. Sleep Talk
10. The New Year
'Everything In Colour' is out now.