With indie giants The 1975 and Sam Fender already tearing up the two main stages as headliners for this year’s Reading & Leeds, it can be easy to lose sight of the rich history the festival once had with the world of hard rock. That is, at least, until current leaders of the metal scene Sleep Token take to the Festival Republic stage, and prove that the genre is still alive and thriving at this festival.
There is no doubt about the grip that the band have on the scene this year — hugely aided by their powerhouse new album ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ — and within seconds of them kicking off their set, it is easy to see why. Anonymous frontman, Vessel, approaches clad in his signature cloak and lit by just one single spotlight, which meticulously follows his every step to ensure the rest of the stage remains in darkness.
From there, he opens with the captivating opening verse of ‘Chokehold’ and, as the song develops, the lights give us a quick glimpse of the band members and hooded backing singers standing eerily still behind him.
Given their striking aesthetic, unorthodox performances (which they refer to as rituals) and nuanced, technical sound, it feels as though this set should have the odds stacked against it when placed in a mainstream setting. However, even without uttering a single spoken word to the audience and with a minimalist stage set-up, the band instead manage the opposite, and draw in arguably the most devoted fans we’ve seen at the festival to date.
Tracks from their latest album are dominating the 45-minute set, and ‘Rain’, ‘Granite’ and ‘The Summoning’ all prove to be the strongest of the night. Instead of fans mindlessly moshing their way through the performance, Sleep Token’s crowd seems to have a heightened sense of admiration for the tracks above all else, and as Vessel effortlessly switches between sub-genres and embodies each emotion with his every movement, its hard not to follow him on a deeply-satisfying journey.
That being said, we can’t shake the feeling that although the band remain on top form, we’re only being shown a fraction of what they’re capable of. And with their biggest-ever headline show set to arrive later this year at Wembley Arena, this was just a glimpse of the band reaching the peak of their powers.
Sleep Token played: