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Live Review: Sleep Token, Poisonous Birds – Colchester Arts Centre, 24/01/2020

I’m pleasantly surprised by how busy things are when I arrive at the Arts Center – it’s hard to judge just how popular bands are locally but certainly there’s no shortage of Sleep Token fans in the local area. Their logo seems to a be a popular presence on people’s arms too, with more than a few tattoos dotted around the crowd. It’s always going to be a good night when there’s a great, interested, crowd.

They’re in for a treat as far as support goes too – unfortunately I arrive just as Beldig finish but Poisonous Birds are incredible. Vocally their frontman has an incredible range with stunning vocals floating over a sea of synthesisers, drums and delay soaked guitar. The track really comes to a climax during Big Water, a piece of music that reminds me of the more post-rock influenced Oceansize tracks than anything electronic, like a wall of sound interweaving.

Sleep Token have certainly spent a lot of time on their aesthetic; all members masked and in cloaks, the lighting strobing between dim and harsh throught the set, occasionally quite blinding. The costumes are detailed and, as I learned after the set, people obsess over the tiniest details, so clearly worth the effort.

Putting the theatrics aside, they’re a talented ensemble regardless – the vocal range from the person who goes by the name of Vessel is fantastic, and the drummer is incredible. To an extent it’s difficult at times to tell at times what points the guitar and bassist are playing and what’s running on the backing tracks but, where it’s clear, everything sounds great and they add an element of energy to the show.

The vocal harmonies in places are genuinely stunning, helped by the huge audience singalongs. There’s an etherial feeling to a lot of the songs, with pre-programmed synthesisers and airy backing providing a base to the stunning vocals. The tracks often climax in a djent style riff, the guitarist and bassist moving around the stage in near synchronicity.

Both Poisonous Birds and Sleep Token put on a great show and the deconsecrated church of Colchester Arts Centre was the best possible location to watch Sleep Token, the setting working perfectly with the image they’ve created for themselves. Usually I’d expect such effort into the aesthetic of a band to be a smokescreen for lack of talent but Sleep Token may be a rare exception as the songwriting is excellent and the production is perfect.

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