Even before Inception brought the concept of lucid dreaming into the mainstream, I used to religiously keep a dream journal1. Some say that my pioneering research into the dream world influenced Freud, but sadly there’s little evidence of that. I’d scour odd forums, download ridiculous apps that measured the stages of my sleep, listen to bizarre new-age meditation tracks, and wake myself up at four in the morning to write down what I could remember. The goal was to condition myself to become more aware and more perceptive of the contents of my dreams. I was in school then, I had no responsibilities, so I plunged myself into this world; it was great fun and genuinely quite thrilling. My dreams did become more vivid and I could remember a lot of surreal events that are enjoyable to read back. Sweden’s Siberian – with their second full-length Through Ages of Sleep – have transferred the contents of their dream journals into the realm of post-metal. Through their music, they present consciousness in flux with the physical fading into the incorporeal. The question is: is there enough tangible tastiness here to give weight to the fluffy incoherence of the dream world?
Siberian have constructed an immersive album that merges a conglomeration of aggressive sounds – sludge, hardcore, folk-metal, atmospheric black-metal – with dreamy flavors that drift through the album, carrying the ethereal essence of bands like Cult of Luna and Isis. Through Ages of Sleep has a much more condensed and fiery sound however, with a greater focus placed on heavier and faster moments that are supplemented with enchanting atmospheric interludes. My only issue with this album, and it’s only one because I adore this album, is that the transitions between heavy and ethereal are not welded smoothly. These transitions feel a tad jarring – such as during the quite blunt changeover midway through “Anima Astray” – and somewhat detract from the immersive quality of the album.
For the most part Through Ages of Sleep is an album verging on, though not quite at, greatness. Siberian manage to merge the extreme genres seamlessly. Most impressive is the energy that surges through the album, even during the lulls and moments of reflection. “Kingdoms” initially carries a Mastodon-esque intensity and riff-led unorthodoxy that is dirtied by the anguished shouts and gruff cries of vocalist Gus Ring. This leads into a subtle interlude laced with faint flute and guitar harmonies before cascading into a crescendo of layered anger and melancholy that merges the best of Cult of Luna and Neurosis. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but it’s extremely well done.
“Heresy Breath” is the album’s most powerful song, merging coiling folk-metal leads, chugging sludgy riffs, and post-metal experimentation in an organic and captivating manner. The excellent bass-tone is prominent here, cranking, throbbing, and exploding through the hectic mix with a vibrancy that lends a lot to proceedings. In cahoots with the bass, Daniel Eklöw’s drumming here, and throughout, is a mighty force to behold. His diversity, however, is commendable; there’s not a tendency to let the drums surge forward haphazardly from beginning to end, instead Eklöw knows when to hang back and let the other’s weave their dreamy yarns. This is most clear the start of opening track “Witness” as a simple and measured drum beat allows for the guitars and vocals to find their footing before a torrent of rapid hi-hat tapping and double-bass pummeling merges with higher-pitched tremolo leads. Continually, the subtle touches at the Earth-like opening of “Anima Astray,” and during the melancholic “Dirge,” add a lot to the engrossing atmosphere of the album.
Siberian manage to merge a variety of styles with a self-assured sincerity that rids the album of any sense of triteness. The faintest traces of atmospheric black-metal, such as towards the end of “Axis Mundi” and at the jubilantly melodic ending of final track “Age of Sleep,” seamlessly connect with dirty, cranking moments of hardcore inspired sludge. This in turn connects with moments of post-metal inspired experimentation that utilizes clean vocals, sitars, flutes and bag-pipes to fascinating effect.
As mentioned at the beginning, Through Ages of Sleep is not a perfect album and it doesn’t flow as well as I’d like it to, however there are so many great and memorable moments branded onto my mind. “Age of Sleep” fades out with Ring screaming ‘To exist/To be again,’ but I often find myself not wanting to exist or be again; I want to delve back into the dreamy clutches of Through Ages of Sleep, and I hope you will too.