What does it mean to be human? Some basic ‘definitions or examples are the abilities to communicate, whether it be through speech, certain gestures we can make with our body, or even facial expressions. It’s the ability to make our own decisions – no matter the cost. And to become our own unique individual – to put it plainly, our identity. But what if we are struggling to find out exactly what that is? What if in our dreams, our own mind is telling us we’re someone else, or even more simply, what if we just have no idea who or what we are? A lot of rhetorical questions to red, I know, but these are actually more commonplace than you’d think for a very large sect of people in this world. These questions can lead to daily, tumultuous inner struggles which further into senses of fear, depression, loss, among other mental strife. This essentially is the driving force behind Michigan’s very own Sleep Waker’s upcoming album, Alias. An emotional rollercoaster of an album, Alias possesses many of those questions through words and sounds and takes a deep dive into what makes us tick, so to speak. Sleep Waker are a band who’s name in and of itself is rather conceptual, stemming from dreams and how they translate into our realities, and although they haven’t entirely left some of those concepts behind, with Alias the band find themselves broaching newfound ideas and theories. To be honest, this has been one of the first pieces of music from Sleep Waker that has not only garnered my full attention from first so to last, but also had me hooked as I too could identify with certain aspects of the lyrics. One of the initial singles, and final track on the album. “Distance”, hit so close to home I could taste it. For vocalist Hunter Courtright the song is about the loss of his grandfather, and the turmoil of the dementia that plagued him beforehand. The reason this song in particular struck such a chord with me is I have lived through the same exact hardship only with my grandmother. Without going into it too deep it was a scary and devastating time to witness. One moment my grandmother would recognize me completely; calling out my name, reminiscing about fun times we had, had together. And other times it was as if she was looking at a complete stranger. The moments where she would recognize these mental slips, I’m sure were some of the most difficult and embarrassing for her and I hated watching her go through it all. It’s a pain I still feel today. Alias shows the band reaching new heights both lyrically and sonically and will blow away any past notions you had of this band.
F L O W / L O N G E V I T Y / O R I G I N A L I T Y
When you think about what the so-called ‘standard definitions’ of what makes up a metalcore album are, a few things come to mind. ALL SONGS WILL BE CONSISTENTLY HEAVY, each song will come to an abrupt end, and most songs will probably sound fairly similar, albeit have different overall feels. Welp, Sleep Waker (while never quite following anything ‘standard’) have squashed all misconceptions and created something wholly unique in the general core world these days. While not entirely ground-breaking, the band has most definitely set aside those typical tropes that at times they may have relied on in the past to break new ground and in a sense reinvent themselves in a matter of speaking. Quite a few songs on the album begin with electronic elements such as synthesizers or varying ominous tones which swiftly drift away to make way for a gut punch of heavy. Songs such as title track “Alias” and initially believed standalone single, “Melatonin” (which regardless of the sleep aid its title is derived from, this song will do anything but put you in a deep state of REM). While the group have added flourishes of new sonic elements, each and every track is a full-on banger in its own way, thus the album feels like it has the most consistent flow from start to finish and never once has a hiccup which would lead the listener’s attention elsewhere.
While the words in which I use to describe an album for my readers to vary vastly in each and every review I write, I consistently have the same formula and that’s hopefully to help anyone who does in fact read these things to have the ability to have a broader picture of what an album entails as opposed to ‘it’s heavy’ or ‘it’s poop’, etc. So, in saying that I do quite often speak to the longevity or staying power of an album. And folks, let me tell ya; Alias is one of those albums that will be on heavy rotation in my EarPods for years to come. It’s one of those rare metalcore albums that you’re actually able to find something new on with every listen. Whether it be your own meaning you’ve placed on the words, or something in the music, I guarantee something different will tickle your ears on each listen.
Originality is always a hard section for me, as every single listener has their own definition of what that means to them. Sure, on the grand scale Alias is nothing ENTIRELY new in the core world. BUT, for Sleep Waker it assuredly is! Instead of following a typical structure or ‘road map’ on what makes up a metalcore track, the band has strived to break free of these molds and start anew. While this is tried and true Sleep Waker, it is nonetheless something completely different for these lads. So, in that vein, yea, this is absolutely something original.
UNFD welcomes Sleep Waker to the family! New album ALIAS is out July 23rd: https://unfd.lnk.to/AliasForced to watch your light change Fade and flicker with t…
V O C A L S / I N S T R U M E N T A T I O N
Wowza. Do I ever love what Hunter Courtright is capable of. From the most guttural of growls to a pitch which could shatter an eardrum, this dude’s throat and voice know no bounds. On the opening moments of “Insomniac” you’ll hear Hunter screaming at such a high range his vocal chords sound as they might actually be bleeding during the initial ‘INSOMI…, all before a thunderous lower register hits with the following letters of the word, ‘..AAAACCCCC’. His voice can sound gravely and display deep saddened emotion such as on the verses of “Distance”, or desperately strained like at the 0:45 mark of “Serenity”. All the while who knew he had such phenomenal cleans!? He soars to grandiose elevations of the chorus of “Alias” and even displays his ‘low hum’ of a tone in the initial moments of the opening verse of Synthetic Veins. Hunter has truly expanded on his repertoire, and if anything has made me curious what more cleans might sound like on the next Sleep Waker album.
As I’ve previously stated the band has dove headfirst into expanding on what they’ve typically done with their instrumentation on previous albums. That isn’t to say they’ve never had the odd electronic flourish before, but it feels as if they’ve delved further into how those elements can add to a specific moment of a song and enhance the overall feel or emotion, they’re trying to convey through the sound of their instruments alone. On a recent podcast that drummer Frankie Mish did with Metal Brainiac, he stated that guitarist Jake Impellizzeri is an EDM fan and was a main contributor in adding some of these ideas to the album. Many examples of this can be heard in the intro to such tracks as “Melatonin”, with its haunting synthetic jabs that only help to elevate the feeling of a paranoia inducing case of insomnia, or the seconds of tones at the beginning of “Serenity” that almost sound like a Decepticon transforming into an ultimate death machine. In that same song though, drummer Frankie Mish, has an epic drum line that creates a feeling of intensity that shivers down your spine and when the guitars come in with a full swing your ears prick up as if the tone surrounds and envelopes your entire being. While the opening of “Insomniac” is faded in, the instrumentals sound fierce and fast paced, yet after Hunter belts out ‘INSOMNIAC’, they slow down to a snail’s pace of an impending doom. Now, although it doesn’t entirely rely on instrumentals to create a structure for a song, the band sure did use them to their advantage when creating the pace or what route the song would take at an unexpecting moment. Many songs on Alias don’t actual follow the typical ‘intro, verse, chorus..’ structure. Many are all over the map in the most maniacally best of ways, and that is due in no small part to the creative avenues in which the band chose to endeavor.
C O M P O S I T I O N / P R O D U C T I O N
The effort that must have gone into broaching such uncharted territory must have been absolutely daunting for Sleep Waker. The amount of sheer effort and creativity is palpable and is to be nothing but admired. Not only did they add a multitude of new tricks and twists instrumentally, but lyrically they strove for new concepts while bridging the gap with ones of old and pulled it off with a goddamn bang. One can only assume that none of this was an easy effort, and as I’ve already said their efforts paid off in spades. Alias is a phenomenally well written album in all of its attributes, and I for one, am here for the ride in full headbanging glory.
The production value of Alias is painstakingly true to how it should be. With an album that has as many electronic elements as it does (without being an electronicore album) and with as many textual layers, the production must be crisp. There can be no muddy waters, and thankfully none are found any one second of any particular song. Hence my saying you will undoubtedly find something new every single damn time you listen, making this album not just enjoyable but a musical adventure of sorts.
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
Once again, I must admit I wasn’t always the BIGGEST fan of these dudes before. I’m not saying I didn’t dig what they were puttin’ down, but at times I got lost in lack of attention. Songs at times sounded too ‘samey’ or lacked that certain something that might set Sleep Waker apart from the other hodge podge of core that was out there. That bullshit notion was blown clear out of the water with Alias. I could not put this album down. I won’t. It has all of the typical elements that I personally look for in a metalcore album, while delving so much deeper to the point that some tracks border on a more progressive nature. Nothing sounds the same and nothing becomes stale. Sleep Waker have most definitely reinvented themselves while staying true to whom they’ve always been. THIS is the album that will make these up-and-comers become a household name in the core world and will absolutely wake you from sleeping (HA! See what I did there?)