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Sleep Token’s biggest festival headline show just proved they’re ready for arena stardom

On night one of Manchester’s Radar Festival, masked enigmas Sleep Token showed they have the fanbase, songs and charisma to become metal’s next biggest band



“Oh, my love! Did I mistake you for a sign from God? Or are you really here to cut me off? Or maybe just to turn me on?” Back in January, these lyrics during the funk outro of Sleep Token’s breakthrough song The Summoning got all of the internet feeling frisky. As that verse serenades Manchester live this evening, there’s a different emotion lingering in the air: 4,000 worshippers are screaming each of the words during the band’s biggest festival headline “ritual” to date, and it’s awe-inspiring.

Of course, the news “Sleep Token do something big” has been heard ad nauseam this year. The Summoning was the first monster metal song of 2023, catapulting its masked creators to a new apex of success with its listenability, eclecticism and alluring sexuality. Two weeks later the band played their biggest show at London’s 5,000-person Hammersmith Apollo, then third album Take Me Back To Eden landed to mass acclaim. Oh, and they sold out Wembley Arena in 10 fucking minutes back in June.

The rabid adulation around Sleep Token feels tangible tonight. Not only are the thousands of acolytes at an also-sold-out day one of Radar Festival singing en masse – sights of them either cosplaying as lead singer Vessel or bawling their eyes out are frequent. It’s a wildly passionate congregation, and it’s blessed with a stunning show that proves this band are already prepared for next-level fame.

It’s impossible to critique Sleep Token without mentioning the sheer presence of Vessel. The golden-voiced enigma is the central figure of both their lore (TLDR: a god spoke to him, now he makes horny pop-djent) and their music. He’s the creative mastermind of every song and, reportedly, records every instrument except the drums.

Tonight, the frontman seizes the stage first, crooning the opening verse of Chokehold as the lights swell to reveal his bandmates and three equally anonymous backing singers. Then his body twitches and darts around as his songs’ indie-pop crescendos into syncopated riffing. Such movement – not to mention a flawless, soulful voice – makes him a compelling frontman without speaking a word.

The rest of the band similarly marry charisma with technical perfection. While the faceless bassist is a bouncing livewire, the choir of backing singers are stoic monks: hooded, masked, arms perennially crossed. Yet, during a climactic The Night Does Not Belong To God, they’re simply sublime.

Sleep Token clearly understand what music flung them to this point, as well. As if to silently acknowledge Take Me Back… as their star-making moment, six songs are pulled from the album. They’re the most dynamic parts of the night, spanning from the funk-jazz swagger of the aforementioned Summoning all the way to Vore. Blimey. That track’s djent riffathon strikes like a bowling ball to the nads, Vessel breaking from his usual, blissful tones to roar his lungs out. Its arrival after the dainty, floating Hypnosis only makes this band’s range all the more apparent.

With their Wembley show looming in December, tonight was a clear statement of readiness from heavy metal’s next arena stars. Their songs incite movement and venue-wide singalongs, their seven-person lineup can fill a stage and they have an attention-grabbing aura this style of music’s not seen since Ghost. Sleep Token are flying and there is no sign of a crash landing in sight.

Sleep Token setlist – Radar Festival, July 28

The Summoning
Like That
Aqua Regia
The Love You Want

The Night Does Not Belong To God
The Offering