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Why SLEEP TOKEN Is The Band We Need In Metal

On May 22, I bore witness to something pretty incredible. An unsuspecting band out of London, who emerged on U.S. soil just a few years ago, took center stage at Radio City Music Hall and staked their claim in music history. Whether you like them or not is no longer relevant, because they’re taking over, and they’re bringing the metal community along for the ride. 

Making their US debut in 2019, Sleep Token has quickly run up the proverbial ladder in five short years, which has earned them phenomenon status in our scene. Naturally their genre- fluid style, mixed with tremendous hype has been met with both adoration and criticism alike. However, after their monster performance taking over one of the largest and most prestigious theaters in the United States on their current Teeth Of God tour, no one can deny what a powerful moment in time this is for the band and our genre as a whole.

Why SLEEP TOKEN Is The Band We Need In Metal

I’ve now seen Sleep Token perform five times that include small club shows, theaters, and debut on the main stage of European festivals last year, but their powerhouse headlining sold out performance at Radio City Music Hall was more than an incendiary play, it was a grand message to the world. That message is every human is invited, no matter what walk of life you came from, we all live and die the same.

The venue was made up of everything from Baby Boomers through Generation Alpha; businessmen rushing over after the closing bell to Kawaii girls repositioning their 20 pieces of flare; dressed up mall goths to average parents donning their favorite sports teams’ apparel… in short, it was a melting pot of humans, scenes, religions and backgrounds. I couldn’t think of anything more fitting for a band that clearly wrote their music for the most eclectic range. It was incredibly heartwarming, to say the least. 

Despite their inclusion, and serious success, I can rarely go a day without hearing a debate from the metal side. I understand this positive review of my recent experience may ruffle some feathers for my troo heshers, but I feel the criticisms metal heads may hold can really be answered in two simple facts:

One – Sleep Token is not a metal band. I say that in no way of being a slight, but a praise. Their songwriting formula is more akin to contemporary pop than it is metal. That’s a fact. Their live show in its entirety really only contains 30-40% metal parts, with the rest representing R&B, trap, hip hop, pop, jazz and everything but metal elements.  Understanding this really broadens the scope of what this band is, and capable of in the grand scheme. In short, Sleep Token is not taking up space in the metal scene, because the average metal head was never the target audience, they were always meant to be much, much more. 

Two –  Sleep Token is not an overnight sensation, they just weren’t ever meant to play clubs. I know this may be a stretch for some, especially given (metal) bands usually takes decades to build to this level, but after watching the band perform at LA’s mid-intimate El Rey Theater just 8 months ago to 700 attendees, and then moving to Radio City Music Hall for 6,000 attendees, it’s never been more clear where this band belongs. The costumes, dance, antics, lights, mood and massive production can be felt at every turn on a big enough stage to contain it. I also saw that at last year’s Summer Breeze performance where they got bumped to the MainStage to 40,000 attendees without having the level of production they have now, and still owned the night.

It’s unfortunate that the metal community spawned the greatest genre in history, but also some of the biggest gatekeepers. Anyone who dares to cross those cemetery gates will see how today’s generation doesn’t really know or care about genrefication, but opts for a more genre-fluid (and life-fluid) lifestyle that showcases the best of what music has to offer. Enter Sleep Token, poised to be the world’s prime example of just that, a group with no borders. 

Why SLEEP TOKEN Is The Band We Need In Metal

I try to always remember that at the base of who we are and what we do in this community, it only stands to grow stronger with more people in it. A band who defies the stigma and borders set before them, and has the ability to cross pollinate scenes isn’t something to fear, but revere.

The future of Sleep Token is bright, and after that performance I can see them stand shoulder to shoulder with the biggest pop and metal acts someday. Asking everyone to embrace genre fluidity without saying a single word. Wouldn’t that be a grand place to be?

As a metal head myself, I send my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the band for elevating our genre, and if even for a moment, make me believe we can all get along in this crazy world.

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