Sleep Signals – Transitions
Sleep Signals launched their incredible second EP, Transitions, last month; and since discovering this absolute gem, I’ve barely put it down! It’s rare that you listen to an unsigned band and are immediately taken aback by how good they are, but Sleep Signals are certainly one those bands! Following the March release, Sleep Signals are currently touring to support the release; further growing their industrious reputation. However, there is so much more to the band than just hard work. So with the band gallivanting off in support of the new release, we get to take an in-depth look at how good Transitions really is!
The album consists of 5 tracks, all of them boasting Sleep Signals trademark hard rock/metalcore sound whilst conveying their own unique message and featuring distinctive characteristics. Tracks like Means display a harder-edged, aggressive nature to the band, while Oceanus Borealis (which is by no means soft), is more measured; showing the band are capable of more than the average metalcore band. The genre is largely well explored, yet Sleep Signals manage to find an undiscovered alcove in which they’ve created a unique combination of technical drumming, awesome guitar melodies and riffs, and powerful vocals, to create a really engaging and enjoyable EP.
The virtuosic nature of the drumming is probably best heard on The Harbinger, which quickly switches between a number of different feels and grooves during the guitar solo. These are well executed, and display a good level complexity to the parts; they are often reminiscent of The Rev‘s iconic drumming in Avenged Sevenfold‘s prime with regards to the complex fills, and rapid changes. These are the basis for a lot of what is great in tracks, allowing the seamless transitions between sections, and building a solid foundation for the lead melody oriented guitar playing.
The guitar playing on Transitions is suitably ridiculous for Metalcore: rarely is a guitar lead heard without a harmonised compatriot; and even rarer is the appearance of a section without a lead guitar melody hidden somewhere within it! Whether it is prominently leading the section, as in the intro of Oceanus Borealis, or widdling away beneath the surface in the pre-chorus of Digital Sleep, there is something exciting happening on the guitars. Impressively, these guitar melodies do not detract from overall track, instead creating an extra harmonic layer of depth whilst providing an alternate focus, complementary to the vocals.
There are, of course, elements within the musical performance which could use improvement, or simply a greater self-awareness. Occasionally, in their ongoing bid to achieve the most virtuosic, interesting performance, the guitars and drums go over the top; causing confusion within sections as it becomes over-complicated and a disorienting listening experience. For example, while Transitions is probably my favourite track on the EP, there is part during the guitar solo in which the drums attempt a far too elaborate kick drum fill. It sounds horribly muddy, artificially triggered, and kind of a mess; causing it to stand out for all the wrong reasons, and becoming a detriment to the section. Fortunately, these issues are rare, and the band are still young. So with such tremendous ability evident in their music, the self-awareness required to know when less is more will come with time.
Aside from these minor discretions, the songs are expertly crafted, and the EP earns it’s title of Transitions as Sleep Signals use of transitions between sections is immaculate throughout. These transitions are integral to the music in order to tie together the variety of expansive textures, elaborate harmonies, and unique soundscapes utilised by the band. It has already been mentioned how the guitars are used in Digital Sleep, but there is a lot happening in this track beyond the guitars’ effect on the track. The use of a high pass filter to transition into the verse following the intro is very innovative, and builds a sense of intrigue before fully exploring the track. However, Sleep Signal‘s impressive manipulation of texture is most evident in the pre-chorus of this track. It seamlessly passes through numerous different grooves, created by the drums to transport the track from the fast paced verse, into the half-time, melodic chorus. This section is particularly impressive as the vocals consistent rhythm here anchors the section, allowing the change to occur.
The vocals do a lot more than simply anchor the tracks on Transitions though! The vocals are always delivered with tremendous gravitas, and in the appropriate manner to match the style. With Oceanus Borealis utilising so many rapid changes during the track, the vocals need to be able to change with the music, and they suitably deliver. They providing a melismatic, clean tone over calmer sections, before quickly switching to a slightly gravellier performance when the track steps up a gear. In amongst the abrupt transitions, it is the vocals which gives the songs direction, and ensures cohesion amongst the various styles. Finally, the vocal’s expert ability to fit the needs of the song is obvious in the outro of Oceanus. While most metal vocalists shy away from having their singing ability laid bare for all to examine, the vocals here are very exposed, singing in harmony to emphasise the meaning of the lyrics at the final point of the track.
Overall, everything discussed contributes to what is an extremely exciting and entertaining EP from Sleep Signals. The individual brilliance of the drums, guitars and vocals give the EP a plethora of hooks, and exciting content to please any metal fan! While there are occasions where these go slightly over the top, the band show tremendous potential, and still manage to construct some excellent tracks on Transitions. There is some incredibly inventive use of musical techniques; and the band’s commitment, passion, and enjoyment for their craft shines through in the songs created. Definitely worth a buy, and one to watch for the future!
Standout Tracks: Transitions/ Oceanus Borealis/ The Harbinger
For Fans Of: Avenged Sevenfold/ Trivium/ Bury Tomorrow
Anyone wanting to hear more from the band can find them here:
For anyone who does download the EP, the standout tracks will feature on my Best Of 2016 playlist on Spotify, along with other great tracks from the year so far.