Experiences are subjective – everyone reacts differently to different stimuli, and experiencing a new event for the first time is no exception. Whether it is seeing the ocean for the first time or listening to what’s unfamiliar and enjoying it, you never get the chance to experience that again. Multinational group 夢遊病者 – known as Sleepwalker in English – return with the epitome of this sentiment in 一期一会 (“For This Time Only, Never Again”), a listening experience that blends jazz, black metal, and psychedelia into a feast for the senses.

Where Sleepwalker’s main calling card lies at is continued experimentation within the scope of black metal, pushing the boundaries of the genre. Throughout 一期一会, there are elements of drone, jazz, and noise embedded within the confines of the music, creating a cohesive, barely controlled chaos that is simultaneously incomprehensible and natural. At first listen, the music seems unexplainable and terrifying as if discovering something forbidden. However, once the music settles, the listener begins to find warmth underneath the cold tinges of experimentation, letting the atmosphere wash over them. It feels like enjoying a warm bath during a cold winter day; one can almost relax as the jazz elements play, submerged in the warm water. It feels like a dream, where the listener enjoys the ebbs and flows thereof as it shows flashes of surrealistic imagery. Although barely controlled, a lot of the music’s energy remains underneath the surface, just waiting for the moment to unleash whatever is lurking in the depths.

And it does – on the latter half of the album, beginning with the fourth track, “No Premature Celebrations”. The airy, whispering vocals become more pronounced and the dynamics between sound and tone begin to blur. Gone is the warmth that was so prominent in the first half of the album; here, everything becomes frantic and filled with a rage that no one saw coming. The music and the vocals become unstable, off-setting the overall mood that was established in the first half. It’s unsettling and eerie, and you can listen as it takes you further down the avant-garde rabbit hole. What you get is a surrealistic nightmare that doesn’t end until the last track closes, almost as punishment for seeing too much, for getting complacent with the familiar. Granted, 一期一会 is everything but complacent, but the way the mood changes on “No Premature Celebrations” is smooth; it gives no room for reaction as the tone shifts and chaos is unleashed. This is a testament to the expert musicianship, keeping your attention until the end.

Ready for a metallic mindfuck? Stream the entirety of 一期一会 (For This Time Only, Never Again) here.

What impresses me most about the album is how accessible it is – and nothing about this album seems accessible at first. Once the listener wades onto the shores of 一期一会’s expansive and dense soundscape, they will find it both highly enjoyable and listenable. The album length also helps, as, at clocking close to 24 minutes, it becomes easier to digest after multiple spins. Paradoxically, this may be one of the most accessible avant-garde albums, in a way that, say, Ved Buens Ende’s Written in Waters or Phlebotomized’s Immense Intense Suspense/Skycontact are not.

All in all, 一期一会 is a highly accessible yet expansive album that epitomizes its translated English title. At its core, 一期一会 is a testament to experience what lies before you and to not look back. After the first listen, the album will no longer seem unfamiliar, and the experience of walking through surrealistic landscapes will never be had again.

一期一会 Track Listing:

01. Sitting for the Road
02. If Return – A Mirror Glance
03. Never Through a Threshold
04. No Premature Celebrations
05. Never Ailments on Oneself
06. No Clinking of Glasses

Run Time: 23:55
Release Date: May 25, 2018
Record Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories