Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
The previous record from 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker), 5772, was one of the surprises of 2017 – a progressive, jazz-inspired take on black metal that followed no path but its own. The multinational band are already back with follow-up 一期一会 (For This Time Only, Never Again), and it has taken my expectations and stomped all over them. This is an even more nonconformist, experimental take on black metal that 5772 was, emphasising the psychedelic elements of their sound and adding drone elements – whilst still retaining a sense of fearlessness and black metal aggression. It’s an album that is seemingly full of contradictions, yet takes all of its opposing influences and makes them, somehow, work together. It’s quite special, and makes most other records being released today seem tame.
A quick run-through of the comparisons that come to mind during the course of For This Time Only… should give an indication of just how varied and creative an album it is. As with 5772, the likes of Voivod, King Crimson, and Sigh come to mind; but so do Xasthur, Leviathan, and the raw black metal of Endless Dismal Moan; Japanese psychedelic noise rock band Zeni Geva; Oxbow; and even hints of Ghost (no, not that one) or the Taj Mahal Travellers. If all of this implies an utter headfuck of an album – you’d be absolutely right. It also implies utter creative genius, with the ability to take vastly diverse influences and pull them together into something remarkably cohesive even at its most free-form and genre-hopping.
And yet, as with 5772, For This Time Only… feels slightly accessible. The huge array of sounds and restless nature of the album means it will never appeal to your black metal fan who is interested only in bands with monochrome covers of woodlands or goats, where every riff draws directly from Darkthrone; and it’s likely it is too heavy and abrasive an album to appeal to most fans of psychedelic music. But for those who are receptive to something that is not afraid to go against the norm, to pursue its own creative vision, there is a lot to explore within For This Time Only…
Unlike with 5772, picking out individual tracks for praise feels slightly redundant. This is an album that feels like a journey, and so to remove one part from its proper context would be to do it a grave disservice. Instead, it is better to sit down and focus fully upon the record for its 23 minute duration; to let its dark waters wash over you, its currents taking you where they will. It is not the easiest of journeys; but then, nor is it intended to be. It is, however, a deeply rewarding experience, and one that demonstrates that 5772 was no one-off. Sleepwalker are one of the most intriguing bands of our time, and deserve your attention.