Soon to enter their third decade as a band, Eldritch return with Cracksleep, an album that talks about the unusual topic of insomnia - the inability to fall and to stay asleep. This thematic component, combined with their blend of progressive and power metal melodies, brings the trouble and longing for sleep to life. After all, the scariest thing when sleep evades you is whether you can sleep solidly through the night.
What comes through immediately about Cracksleep is the atmosphere and how it heightens the urgency to fall asleep. The grandiosity of the music echoes feelings of dread and anxiety, while adding a deep sense of melancholy throughout the album. The paced guitars, the unpredictability of leading piano tones, and the consistent drumming, combined with Terrence Holler’s vocals, bring a deep sense of desperation to the forefront, making sure that the listener understands just how badly the narrator wants to have a good night’s sleep. Holler’s vocals remind me of Mathias Blad from Falconer: charismatic and with a penchant for the dramatic. They aim to be the focus of the album, succeeding at various points throughout Cracksleep. This is best shown in “As the Night Crawls In”, where the instrumentation takes a backseat and lets the vocals take centerstage. Holler’s voice becomes dynamic and alive, adding much-needed warmth.
Check out the “As The Night Crawls In” lyric video below.
In this vein, the music sounds similar to Kamelot: it has a flair for big, sweeping musical interludes and solos, catchy hooks and choruses, and a wall of sound that rears its head when the backing instrumentation decides to step in and become the main melody. However, Eldritch are more conservative in their usage of sweeping instrumentation to add color to the album. It’s heavy and dark, sometimes ending abruptly before transitioning into the next song. Whether this was to showcase how sleep can evade you – suddenly waking up from a deep sleep without explanation, the phenomenon of “falling backwards” in bed, dozing off before waking up again – is up for interpretation.
Considering how insomnia, on a whole, is caused by numerous factors, the desperation is evident and justified. While it is not known just what causes insomnia, there have been numerous suggestions. One such theory is that increased activity in the central nervous system leads to enhanced sensory and information processing, leading to restlessness . In other words, a sleepless night can be caused by anxiety, stress, and other factors that can disrupt the central nervous system from resting. Cracksleep takes this and amps the desperation and the melancholy to a claustrophobic and skin-crawling level. However, even in their desperation, there is something beautiful about the way Eldritch portrays insomnia. One can appreciate the imagery of the sleepless night, whether it is regarding boredom (“Staring At The Ceiling”) or feeling a deep sense of anxiety that leads to cold sweat (“Deep Frost”).
Despite the music and the excellent atmosphere, what truly throws me off is the production. As I have already mentioned, there are moments where it sounds like the vocals are competing to be heard over the heavy sound layering. It’s a shame, because Holler’s vocals are humanizing and add warmth to an otherwise cold record. They should be the focus of the album, and the way the recording is mixed makes the vocals indiscernible from the backing instrumentation. The most prominent moment of this occurs during the chorus of “Aberration of Nature”, where the layers of sound overshadow what would have been the most dynamic and powerful part of the song: the vocal sweep. It’s a relatively minor issue if your listening focus is the music, but if your focus is the vocals, then these badly-mixed moments take you out of the listening experience.
So, for what are you waiting? Stream the entire album right here.
All in all, Cracksleep is a fantastic blend of progressive and power metal tones that will definitely keep you awake. The music is dynamic and complex, the imagery is powerful, and the album definitely strikes a chord. It’s an enjoyable album that can be replayed numerous times, never wearing out its welcome.
Cracksleep Track Listing:
01. Cracksleep (intro)
03. Deep Frost
04. Aberration Of Nature
05. My Breath
06. Silent Corner
07. As The Night Crawls In
08. Voices Calling
09. Staring At The Ceiling
10. Night Feelings
11. Hidden Friend
Run Time: 53:42
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Record Label: Scarlet Records
Footnotes:  Kertesz, R.S. & Cote, K.A. (2011). Event-related potentials during the transition to sleep for individuals with sleep-onset insomnia. Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 9, 68-85.