01. Where It All Begins
02. Giant Heads
03. Pro Crook
04. Fear Over The City
05. Ants In Suits
06. Off The Radar
07. Far From Low
09. Holy Tranquilizer
10. Sharp Beaks Strike Back
12. Six Days
Sleepwalk, the first full length from French groove metallers Watertank, is a fantastic example of how attention to detail and a clear focus on consistency in quality is what allows an album to truly stand out. It’s a fine line to walk on any record between producing something varied and engaging or producing something completely lacking in cohesion, and Watertank have done a fantastic job in producing an LP which is both interesting and consistent.
It was of no surprise to hear that the band have toured with the likes of Baroness, Kylesa, and personal favourites of mine Torche, as the influence from the shared stylistic elements of these artists comes through clear as day. Watertank overlay heavily distorted guitars, a booming rhythm section and clear but powerful vocals, and it is in the layering and depth of these elements that the band really shine. It’s remarkable how much good – or at least appropriate – production can add to an album’s sound, and on Sleepwalk the band have got this element just right; never once sounding thin but allowing each element to shine through where necessary.
Vocalist Thomas B. has a varied style of delivery which contributes a lot to the differentiation of tracks on Sleepwalk. A clean but determined Sabbath-esque performance in opener “Where It All Begins” contributes heavily to the tracks strongly doom-influenced feel, whereas his performance on songs like “Pro Crook” is if anything more reminiscent of Dave Grohl on earlier Foo Fighters records. The grunge influence is strong throughout Watertank’s work; both in Thomas’ accenting and delivery, and in the song structure and feel, and this element of the band’s sound was one of the unexpected highlights of the album.
Instrumentation on the LP, in a manner similar to the vocals, varies considerably between tracks on a stylistic level. Shared themes of booming bass and rhythm, clear and cutting snare and bass sounds, and groove-oriented riffing are present throughout – however and it is the way these elements are woven together on each track that grant the album variety as a whole. Tracks like “Where It All Begins” and “Holy Tranquilizer” are classic doom/stoner rock through and through, booming slow paced power chords echoing over placated drums and bass. “Pro Crook” and “Ants in Suits” sound contrastingly modern and upbeat, evoking for me comparisons to Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon respectively. Album closer “Six Days” once again cuts its own style with its strong progressive rock influence and heavy focus on atmosphere and varied tone and tempo with an overall much more placid sound.
My first impression of Sleepwalk was almost universally positive and it only improved on subsequent listens. It’s of no surprise to me that the group were together for nearly ten years prior to the album’s release, as the maturity and quality on the album is one not often found on a debut. Watertank’s ability to evoke impressions of such a remarkable variety of styles while weaving the resulting tracks together into a cohesive unit is not to be underestimated and I await future releases or chances the group live with bated breath.