Sleep Token - O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush 20/11/21

Roadie Live is back at live shows after nearly 2 years away, and there is no better opportunity than to Worship at a Sleep Token Ritual in their home town.


Before the opening act had even entered the stage, the sheer size of the pedalboards laid out made it evident something different was about to fill the air. As A.A. Williams opened her mouth, an ethereal experience followed. All I Asked For (Was to End It All) layered over the onlookers with thick reverb tones and lengthy, airy vocal runs as the group played through last year's debut Forever Blue. Closing with MELT, they had created a soundscape that left a bittersweet taste; haunting and disturbed, powerful and hopeful.



Dischordant bell chimes played for a long while before lights out, adding to the unease in the room. As the lights went out, mass hysteria could almost be tasted as vocal entity Vessel took to the stage behind His keyboard, raised above the level of the stage. Atlantic rang out to note-perfect definition, flipping from falsetto to raspy mid-range and back again through the poetic lyricism. The remaining entities ventured onto the stage to smash through the close of the song and into Hypnosis as Vessel Himself slithered from keyboard to stage front.


Throughout the middle portion of the set came the heavily-electronic part of the set where the guitarist and bassist (both unidentified) put down their instruments. Both squirmed with the music, never breaking the scene for a second, miming utter torment along with the tales of pain being recounted vocally through the speakers. A notable element came in Sugar, where this torment warped into a sick tale of murder with Vessel sitting astride a band member with a hand around his throat as he writhed under the weight.



The bulk of the set began drawing to a close with a dance-accompanied acapella version of Fall For Me which provided a visual representation of the vivid imagery rife throughout the words. The scream of "oh God, I wish you were here" hit with bone-shattering catharsis with the room in unison - does a show get better than that? Singalong versions of Alkaline and Higher provided the "sacred moments in time" the band mentions in social media posts, with the latter chorus being the most powerful vocal performance by the crowd throughout.


An encore provided the craved The Night Does Not Belong to God-The Offering combination for a crushing breakdown and one final mosh before the band left the stage with mimed gratitude and wide open arms, leaving Vessel alone. As He donned His guitar for the first and only time of the Ritual to play Missing Limbs. "I'll live like I've got missing limbs for you" left the air heavy with what had just been and will never be relived and just like that, Sleep Token had vanished back into the night.


There is nothing that quite matches how utterly bizarre yet breahtaking these Rituals are and have been for years now, and nothing has quite scratched that itch before or since. Astounding.



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