The best thing about Sleepwalker’s latest post-metal release, Monument from the Void, is that it immediately reminds me of the dark ambiance of fellow Russian outfit, Windbruch, and particularly their 2013 exercise in utter musical melancholy, No Stars, Only Full Dark.
The worst thing about Sleepwalker’s latest post-metal release, Monument from the Void, is that it immediately reminds me of the dark ambiance of fellow Russian outfit, Windbruch, and particularly their 2013 exercise in utter musical melancholy, No Stars, Only Full Dark.
Because explicit influences are one thing, but similarity to this degree – even when executed with such obvious skill and emotion – seems a little too close to plagiarism for comfort. And the skill and emotion are evident, make no mistake: instrumentation (varying from gongs to Tibetan bells to horns punctuating the more traditional metal elements) is tasteful, well performed and arranged convincingly, while the atmospheres generated are so believable in their despairing isolation that the listening process is almost punishment. This same skill and authentic depth of feeling are what led long-running UK act Fen to partner with Sleepwalker on their 2016 split, Call Of Ashes II/Of Stone And Sea.
But there’s just no escaping the uncanny similarity in the slow builds, pulsed electronic stabs, mild yet intriguing dissonance and crystalline synthwork that underpins the structures on both Sleepwalker and Windbruch’s equally lovely compositions, and I can’t escape the taint this gives my opinions. However, ignoring this bias to the best of my ability does leave me with the conclusion that Monument from the Void is not only very well crafted but also cleverly paced. The title track is very much a dreamlike introduction, followed by the denser, more melodic “Le Cercle Rouge” – which suffers only from its brevity. While the contrast may be intentional (at only a hair under three minutes long, it is less than half the length of its follow-up, “Dream Cycle”), it does leave a listener wanting more.
To illustrate my point, here is the closest thing to a radio-friendly single off the record.
But it’s the closing opus, “Neverending Journey Through the Void” that deserves the attention. A long format piece like this (28 minutes!) is a very difficult thing to sell – attention spans are not what they used to be and near-cinematic expressions of grief like this are not everybody’s cup of tea. Even a Russian cultural history of both extensive epics (anyone for Tolstoy?) and absolute, inescapable depression (Dostoevsky, perhaps?) make Sleepwalker a difficult concept to grasp on a wider scale. The harshest sections on the record and the greatest shifts in pace – the subtle, soft, slow key arpeggios around the six-minute mark, for instance – do aid in the process, but it’s still a gruelling half-hour of bleak despair. But then again, if it were easy to access and synthesize, it wouldn’t be the accomplishment it is. So despite my misgivings at its comparative resemblance to Windbruch, Monument From the Void is still a really solid artifact and worthy of praise over denigration.
Monument from the Void Track Listing:
1. Monument From the Void
2. Le Cercle Rouge
3. Dream cycle
4. Neverending Journey Through the Void
Run Time: 46:40
Release Date: August 13, 2021
Record Label: Ksenza Records