Ohio’s prog metallers Sleepers Awake have returned with their second studio album ‘Transcension‘ this month, and it’s about as progressive as it comes. That in itself can be deemed as a compliment or a criticism, which depends solely on preference. To a prog enthusiast, ‘Transcension‘ is another major development in a wider, on-going creative process, yet to an amateur, it could be an exhausting experience to take in.
Opening track ‘The Augur’ is relatively easy to digest. Its journey is easy to track and the central foundations are cleverly built-upon, giving an overall initial impression of accessibility. That feeling lasts all of five minutes, though, with ‘Burden’ sticking around for the long haul. Here, the journey isn’t so easily tracked and it all appears a little haphazardly welded together and that doesn’t make for a good ten minutes of listening.
The central chunk of the album is soured by the introduction of growling vocals. The short burst of this style in ‘Apparitions’ is bordering on comical, and sounds more like gargling mouthwash than a serious attempt at death metal vocals. But worse of all, the music accompanying it doesn’t change to what has previously come before, so it just doesn’t make any sense. Just because Opeth have low vocals, doesn’t make them a necessity.
Thankfully, the idea is used and abused in about three consecutive songs and is then abolished for the remainder of the record. The tracks are shorter in the latter half of the album, as well, which allows Sleepers Awake to put their stake in the middle-ground. The instrumental ‘Circles Without Divisions’ showcases the same level of progression as some of the lengthier tracks, yet executes with far more direction and purpose. There are some pretty mind-blowing moments to enjoy if you make it this far.
Sleepers Awake’s ‘Transcension‘ is a lengthy and complex record to absorb, but that also means there’s plenty to explore. Give it the time as well as excusing the sporadic low vocals, and the abundance of creativity that it holds will become clearer and clearer as the album plays on. Get yourself comfortable, though, you’re in for a long ride.
Reviewer: Matt Borucki