Palm Reader – ‘Sleepless’

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Having spent years building a cult-like following with sonically punishing material and visually staggering live performances, Palm Reader have established themselves as a band worth paying attention to. Growing from humble house show roots to festival favourites, their cult began to grow after the success of their critically acclaimed 2018 album ‘Braille’, receiving positive reviews and praise from all corners of the progressive metal and hardcore world. A little over two years since its release, they’re back with their brand new record ‘Sleepless’, and it’s definitely going to turn even more heads in their direction.

Why, you ask?

Because it’s a masterpiece.

This album has been thoughtfully put together, the band having built a collection of songs with enthralling depth that beckons you in and envelops you completely. From the very beginning of the record that depth makes itself known, with opening number ‘Hold/Release’ showcasing it both musically and lyrically. Comprised of atmospheric textures and push/pull dynamics that are mirrored by the lyrics, the song details the battle that many go through in regards to toxic masculinity, with vocalist Josh McKeown passionately crying, “Euphoria will never have a home in me”.

‘Stay Down’ is home to a sound that’ll be more familiar to long-standing fans of the band, flaunting their popular blend of biting rawness and alluring heaviness. Based on the mental hardships that we all endure through these trying times, the song is a ferocious ode to all of us as we do our best to stay strong and keep moving forwards. ‘Ending Cycle’ is much calmer but just as introspective, using dream-like atmospherics and well-timed rises and falls as it tales the many faces of grief. The striking ‘Willow’ is like a blend of both, boasting crushing blows and restorative subtleties that work together to create a touching and impactful tale of a mother losing their child.

If this record proves anything about Palm Reader it’s that they’re just as comfortable writing expansive epics as they are at writing balls-to-the-wall ragers, such as the soul-stirring ‘False Thirst’ and its vivid, lullaby imagery. ‘Both Ends Of The Rope’ is an elegant and pulsing entity using a number of narratives to tell different sides of the same story, all colliding together above an ever-evolving landscape full of ravenous guitars, luscious synths and futuristic sounds.

‘A Bird And Its Feathers’ is the centrepiece of the album, however – a dark love song set beneath a continuously blackening sky, skulking towards a savage crescendo that concludes with a short and sharp cacophony of brass. This is a band at its most adventurous but also its most comfortable, putting out a devastatingly captivating record. Put simply, it’s absolutely breathtaking.

‘Sleepless’ presents Palm Reader in a completely different light, bringing a stark vulnerability to the foreground and placing it at the very core of the record. That vulnerability is as fragile as it is warm and welcoming, allowing a whole host of sentiments and emotions to creep in and out of the spotlight at all the right times. Every song plays its part in a short story, crammed full of twists and turns, highs and lows, and everything in between, all masterfully dramatised to create a level of impassioned resonance that most bands can only dream of achieving.

If all of that isn’t enough, it’s also one of those records that expands with every listen. You’ll find yourself floored after your first play, but each successive journey will reveal colours in the palette that you hadn’t noticed before. It’s a bleak, melancholy, pensive and gloomy offering on the surface, that much is clear, but there are strokes of resolve and glimmers of hope that break through in the face of even the darkest moments. This is the biggest, best and most mature sounding record of Palm Reader’s career, without a doubt. A very special album from one of the most criminally underrated bands that the UK has to offer.

DAVE STEWART

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