Zornheym – The Zornheim Sleep Experiment Review

Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns floored me the first time I heard it back in 2017. I suspect that I liked it a fair bit more than Ferrous Beuller did, but his review (one of the first reviews I read on this site, in fact) is how I discovered it, so I owe him big-time. Zornheym‘s blend of symphonic bombast with blackened death wrapped in Shutter Island-esque psychological horror sold me right away. Four years later, I still return to it often. The Swedish quartet announced the follow-up to Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns a few months ago, and since then Ferrous and I spent much time gossiping and whispering in anticipation for The Zornheim Sleep Experiment. Sadly, we weren’t able to execute what would’ve been a super-cool double-intake. Even more sadly, I recently learned that Ferrous thinks of this new album as a bit of a step down.

I, on the other hand, fell deeply in love with The Zornheim Sleep Experiment. It’s basically a perfect encapsulation of my taste in a tight, terribly infectious thirty-seven minutes. The album bleeds drama, replete with trem-picked melodies, gargantuan choruses, hook-laden songwriting, and properly recorded choirs and orchestras. Zornheym essentially advanced their sound to even more theatrical proportions than before, then paired it with a wonderfully clear and rich production. Conceptually, The Zornheim Sleep Experiment evolves from an assortment of short stories detailing the trials and tribulations of individual asylum patients into a true blue concept album. Clearly inspired (though perhaps unintentionally) by The Russian Sleep ExperimentZornheym‘s sophomore full-length follows the story of Professor Alastor Bettleheim, MD PhD, the Director of Zornheim Asylum for the Criminally Insane1. He, along with his fellow colleagues, proceed to force a number of his patients to endure what was supposed to be thirty days of hormonally induced consciousness to study the purpose of sleep in humans. The Zornheim Sleep Experiment chronicles the experiment and its catastrophic results.

While this story shares a great deal with The Russian Sleep Experiment, I adore Zornheym‘s execution of the concept and the attention to detail rendered upon it in musical form. Each track comes complete with varying character roles, bespoke compositional style, and surprisingly enjoyable lyrics, carrying the album beyond the scope of music into full-blown theater. From opener “Corpus Vile” to the final chimes of closing instrumental “The Madness That Lurks Within (Epilogue),” The Zornheim Sleep Experiment immediately immerses me in an inhumane, clinical environment, and I find it difficult to detach myself when it’s over. Much like the subjects in the story who become hopelessly addicted to adrenochrome gas, I fall victim to the massive chorus in “Slumber Comes with Time,” the undeniable, tribal blackened death that is SotY contender “The Revelation,” and the morbid body-horror of “Keep Cutting.” Furthermore, the performances across the board, especially in regards to vocals, are beyond reproach. Listen to “Dead Silence,” with its waltzing verses and immense crescendo in the back end, and tell me these guys aren’t at the top of their game.

Finding faults with The Zornheim Sleep Experiment was an exercise in nit-picking. Much like Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns, short interludes separate main portions of story. This technique works well enough, but Zornheym didn’t need it to support this. I would keep cutting the interludes, or at least integrate them into the proper songs to which they lead. In contrast with the last record, The Zornheim Sleep Experiment focuses heavily on melodic leadwork and blackened trem-picking as opposed to bludgeoning riffs. While I don’t think this shift is a significant detractor, over time I found myself craving the kind of deathly riffs that force my neck muscles to attempt summary defenestration of my head. What it comes down to, I suppose, is knowing that The Zornheim Sleep Experiment would’ve easily secured my top spot on this year’s list if the riffs it does offer hit harder.

Make no mistake, Zornheym is an insane force to be considered very armed and very dangerous. Though I have more complaints than I usually do for an album scored as highly as this one, none of them dull my enjoyment of The Zornheim Sleep Experiment. I spun this thing upwards of thirty times, of my own volition, in spite of my own neglected need for slumber, before my fingers first graced my keyboard. It possessed me. I sing the song of the tortured sleepless in the shower, at work, at the gym, in the showers at the gym at work, wherever. A word of advice: if you see me on the street, muttering and spasming like a man ten days out of sleep, STAY AWAY!

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Noble Demon
Websites: zornheym.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/zornheym
Release Worldwide: October 22nd, 2021

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  1. An AMG, Inc. not-for-profit subsidiary. – Steel
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