REVIEW: SLEEPMAKESWAVES – “Made of Breath Only”
Music is one of Australia’s most well-known exports especially hard rock/metal bands who have endured great success domestically and internationally. The new wave of hard rock/metal bands from Australia is now growing faster than ever with independent records labels such as Birds Robe Collective supporting up and coming to more well-known established bands that experiment in multiple genres from post-punk, shoegaze and progressive metal; even bands that are purely instrumental have become well established entities in the Australian live music scene. Sleepmakeswaves are the best example of an instrumental/progressive metal band that started playing underground D.I.Y venues and quickly became a well-recognised band in the music industry performing sold out shows in their hometown of Sydney, going on tour with Opeth, Karnivool and 65daysofstatic and being nominated for best hard rock/heavy metal album at the ARIA Awards (The Australian Recording Industry Association Awards). In their 10 years of existence Sleepmakeswaves have released a bunch of E.P’s and are about to release their 3rd studio album titled ‘Made of Breath Only’. It’s the 2nd time they have financed the recording through a crowdfunding campaign (the 1st was the previous album Love of Cartography) where the band achieved enough capital to finish the album thanks to their loyal fan base.
‘Made of Breath Only’ is pushing the band’s progressive metal roots even further this time, taking the listener to a dark world, with longer compositions, more intense technical moments and embracing shorter song structures punctuated by catchy riffs delivered in a very skillful manner. The concept of the album is trying to visualize Antarctic landscapes but don’t expect it to sound like water dripping from icebergs, it’s more like ice cracking wide open and crushing avalanches coming down the mountain at a devastating speed like on the song “Worlds Away”. There are also moments of beauty where the band experiments with electronic sound design incorporating organic instrumentation with synthetic soundscapes. This is very apparent on the intro to the album “Our Days Were Polar” and it’s also noticeable on a number of songs where the composition starts off with a bed of electronica and is then swamped by incendiary guitars that come blasting in, It quickly becomes evident that Sleepmakeswaves like to keep the listener guessing what they will do next.
“The Edge of Everything” is the longest composition on the album and has a strong Yes influence without it sounding too retro. It builds up from a deceptively easy-going acoustic guitar preamble and then hits you with a wall of amplified instrumentation as it aims for perfection and winds up with a touch of dramatic excellence; it is one of the highlights on ‘Made of Breath Only’, vividly divided into several moving parts that can be admired for their imagined cinematic quality and ambitious scope. Another superb song is “Tundra” which again has a strong Steve Howe guitar playing style however it delves into weird oriental scales and shows the level of musicianship Sleepmakeswaves is capable of. “Hailstones” goes into a more shoegaze style, quite melancholic sounding but uplifting nevertheless and its bright synths adds color to the band’s musical palette. You can really hear the dark world Sleepmakeswaves creates on this album when you listen to a song like “Into The Arms of Ghosts” that has heavy guitar passages and visually conjures up a scene from the Liam Neeson film The Grey.
There are some beautiful but cold sounding songs Like “Midnight Son” that I could imagine Sleepmakeswaves playing in a Scandinavian country that barely sees the day of light rather than in sunny Australia. “Gracial” uses an ambient soundscape that Brian Eno would have loved creating back in the 80’s and evolves to a slow metal riff that is chilling and riveting. The self-titled track starts with what appears to be the sound of melting ice but enigmatically turns out to be a gentle piano tinkering. “To Light and Then Return” goes back to the bands more post-punk sound from their previous albums but still fits in with the icy concept of the new release.
Sleepmakeswaves’ music takes you into a sonic journey exploring a new and a completely different genre. This album will be remembered and listened to for years to come and regardless if you’re a fan of metal music or not there’s something here for anyone that appreciates quality music. There’s not much to fault with ‘Made of Breath Only’ except to say that it is aiming for unattainable artistic perfection and still achieves a more than exceptional level. It is an album that leads by example and will make other bands from Australia and elsewhere raise their standards of musicianship and composing.