Going in blind on bands can be an interesting exercise. A lot of times the label, cover art, or general aesthetic can give clues as to what the listener can expect, but in the case of 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) the only real clue is that their newest MLP, 5772, is released via Sentient Ruin, a label more recently known for its eclectic tastes on the fringes of extreme metal. Sleepwalker, however, is a multinational project (the three members hail from Japan, Russia, and the United States) that transcends not only the binds of sub-genre definition, but the genre of metal itself.
The MLP itself is a little more than 20 minutes long, and in that time manages to paint one of the most moving pieces of music in recent history. Beginning with “Empty Urns,” the band hits a sound that calls back to it’s only previous release, 2016’s 統合失調症の飢餓 (Hunger for Schizophrenia). More in the vein of black/death/doom acts such as Tchornobog or The Ruins of Beverast, it’s a trudging, noisy low-end frenzy of raw production that works its way through dirge-y tempos, blast beats, and grooves paired with crushing riffs and plenty of dissonance. Guitarist/vocalist PBV delivers an eerie, raspy, whispered incantation that at times sounds both harsh and soothing over the music almost as a sort of atramentous lullaby.
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories.
The production is consistent throughout, and it cannot be stated enough just how well-executed it is. Despite all the changes in different styles, it neatly blends every aspect and presents the band as a whole. The album was tracked live and it shows; this isn’t an album by way of cut-and-paste file sharing, Sleepwalker operate as a single unit. The fuzzy, lo-fi aesthetic works in the band’s favor, blanketing 5772 in an atmosphere of mystery and warmth as the band navigates through beautiful dream states between barbarous, scathing nightmares. Every piece is layered masterfully; it isn’t difficult to distinguish everything that is happening at once, though repeat listens are still rewarded with brilliant surprises tucked away inside the songs.
The above descriptions are but a taste of what Sleepwalker has to offer with 5772. It truly is a phantasmagoric experience through one of the more creative and unique albums I’ve heard in some time. Any fan of progressive or experimental music can find something to like here; I cannot recommend it enough.