Writers at Independent Clauses have been following Sleep Bellum Sonno since their first release Ascertain, which was a pretty powerful post-hardcore affair: intense, moody rock instrumentals punctuated by screamed vocals and the occasional breakdown. As SBS has matured over the last five years, they’ve spent more and more energy on the moods of their songs and less on the overt aggression. This has enabled their music to become intense in a completely different way.
The two songs on their split with Joie De Vivre show that they can run people through the emotional wringer without using massive riffs or hardcore breakdowns. Opener “Do You Hear That Old Ship’s Song” uses enough reverb and space in the arrangement of the song that it has the feel of a tune leaking out from an old ghost ship at the bottom of the ocean. The group male vocals at the end singing “whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh” certainly help this mood as well.
The band does venture into double-throated screaming, as both vocalists get their yell on here. One’s tone is more of a MeWithoutYou-style yeller, while the other is a throat-shredding screamer; the former is more appetizing than the latter, as it fits better with the tone and timbre of the song. The move away from aggressive instrumental work should also prompt a shift away from the brutal vocals, I hope. It would work better for the songs.
They show that they understand this principle in the second and final track “All I Can See Is an Open Road.” The track is more uptempo, delving into some dissonant chordal work and intense sections of rock. But even when they crank up the instrumental intensity, they dial back the vocals to a roar instead of a throat-shredding scream. It works very, very well, making the latter a more effective track than the former. “All I Can See Is an Open Road” is just as intense as anything they’ve put out before; they have just channeled their fury in a different direction and to a different outlet.
Both of these tracks are excellent post-hardcore pieces. Sleep Bellum Sonno continues to progress in their songwriting, and I see nothing but good things for them if they press on. Pick up their half of the split here.