Sleep In Heads – On The Air

Rating: 4/5
Distributor/Label: Noizr
Distributor/Label URL:
Released: 2018
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Band Line-up:

Sonya: Vocals
Serj: Guitar
Natalia: Violin
Roman: Drums
Fann: Bass
Katerina: Keyboards/Piano

Track Listing:

1. Pacifying
2. Vagrant
3. Deceiver
4. Time Like The Sand
5. Blue Fear
6. Secret Shelter


Culture shock can be construed as discomfort in a lot of ways, but it can also be one of the most enlightening experiences imaginable. How this relates to the debut album from Ukranian progressive metal troupe Sleep In Heads is simple: a different culture, rooted in different values, influences, and traditions, can interpret something more commonplace in another, sometimes in ways not previously conceived. In the 40 minutes of On The Air, their take on progressive metal develops a spiritual resonance, exploring the psyche of the being, and implores that salvation can be found in an individual’s peace within themselves. The album’s themes are very much philosophical, but they are performed in such a manner that sounds enchanting and wholly original for musically curious ears.

The opener ‘Pacifying’ draws on a tone and pace that expands exponentially, reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, but once the sensational touch of strings are added, Dead Can Dance could also be used as a touchstone. A melancholic air does sting the atmosphere that they conjure, accompanied by vocalist Sonya’s serene incantations, giving it a gothic charm that could echo Lacuna Coil, especially when dense, punchy guitar dispels all but an undercurrent of ambience. Yet, the translation of these beginning seven and a half minutes is it can often feel uplifting, not sorrow-trodden. Despite being an atmosphere heavy listen, there lies very muscular grooves nestled within this spellbinding haze they dwell inside. The openings of both ‘Vagrant’ and ‘Time Like The Sand’ feature squelches of keyboard, of which the heaviness of the guitar cuts through dramatically, familiar in nature to the Pineapple Thief. While On The Air isn’t necessarily filled with an abundance of memorable guitar riffs or hooks front to backtheir exemplary compositions add that extra dimension and edge to their craft, and boy do they excel at their craft.

‘Deceiver,’ their shortest foray on their excursion, showcases the sorts of hooks they are capable of, with a soaring vocal refrain built up by one of the album’s only real brushes with speed; a constant snare rim tap with a simple but addictive melody underneath it. ‘Secret Shelter’ takes it one step further with piano and violin intertwining solemn earworms at its entrance, stretching to a black metal-inspired blast beat burst and a triumphant union of power chords and cymbals colliding with one another at its close. But On The Air’s crowning achievement is ‘Blue Fear,’ pounding from the get-go in a poly-rhythmic waltz, with verses giving space to Sonya’s vocals and a catchy chorus that cleverly feeds on contrasts. It culminates in the album’s most evocative moment, a crescendo sustained by Sonya passionately crying out into the ether, while the sum of the instruments’ force could make the ground give way in the sheer emotional impact of it all, and a calming aftermath, all serving as arguably the best choice for a grand finale if there was one. 

Nitpicking aside, Sleep In Heads are a truly welcome new addition to the diverse and rich realm of progressive metal, with their spiritualist outlook shaping an inspiring and often transcendentally beautiful listen. 

Review by Jason Hough