Review: Sleepbomb ‘The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari’

Sleepbomb is a San Francisco outfit comprised of Charles Hernandez – guitars, Tim Gotch – bass/synths, Claire Hamard – vocals/keys, Rob Johnson – drums and Brown Hues on live production. Formed in 2003, the band create original and imagined music for films with this their latest release centred around the 1920 German silent horror classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Sleepbomb 'The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari' Artwork
Sleepbomb ‘The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari’ Artwork

Directed by Robert Wiene, the film was part of the expressionist movement popular in Germany at the time meaning it was focused on emphasizing ‘the artist’s inner emotions rather than attempting to replicate reality’ (Wikipedia). The plot revolves around a sleepwalker who makes deadly predictions, and a man and his fiancée who go through a terrible ordeal as a result. Band member Claire Hamard stated in the promo notes that she was captivated by the movie as a teenager and thus ‘wanted to convey the strange beauty that emerges from it, over and above its sometimes disturbing or even terrifying aspect’. Intrigued? Me too.

Intro an instrumental piece, sets up the album to come very effectively with its blend of spooky, chilling atmospherics while Act I, despite retaining some of its predecessor’s initial creepiness, is actually surprisingly moving, demonstrating the pathos inherent in real horror movies when compared to the empty shallow torture porn of Saw, Hostel etc. Musically there are nods to the post-rock doom of bands such as The River which make it an ethereal delight to listen to.

Act II has a moody Western vibe, shades of Ennio Morricone’s work on Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name Trilogy and Hex; Or Printing In The Infernal Method by Earth are present. The track gets heavier as it goes along reminding one of Goblin if they went down a more metallic route, sublime. Act II Interlude is a little jazzier in feel, especially the world fusion orientation of Yusef Lateef and Act III sees the band utilising the dreamy ambience of bands such as the Cocteau Twins, especially when it comes to the opaque ghostly vocals making for what is a profoundly beautiful listening experience.

a profoundly beautiful listening experience…

Act III Interlude is another slab of Western ambient drone goodness ala Act II, while Act IV with its dramatic use of synths recalls Faith No More’s Self-Titled debut such was the omnipresent post-punk darkness present on that album that the band never really replicated in their career. This isn’t overly surprising seeing as the album has been co-released by Billy Gould‘s label Koolarrow Records along with Consouling Sounds. There is also a cool depressive goth sensibility too, it’s superb whichever way you cut it.

Act V, the longest number on the album at over twelve minutes, has to my ears both a folkier strain as well as a distinctly progressive one. Comus and/or Jethro Tull gone horror is one way of describing what’s on display on this magnificently crushing epic beast of a track. Act VI is the band at their most experimental making it the track which is the hardest to get a handle on. This is Sleepbomb at their most post-metal, think an even more avant-garde ISIS and their classic 2002 record Oceanic what with the crashing waves of relentless sludgy sonic distortion. An all-out solid conclusion to the album.

A key way of figuring out an album’s effectiveness is whether it warrants repeated listening, to which my answer here would be a resounding yes. So impressed was I that I immediately went and purchased the rest of their catalogue on Bandcamp and if that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Label: Consouling Sounds | Koolarrow Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills