The anonymous collective known as Sleep Token is challenging genre purists with experimental sounds and cathartic performances.

There is a beauty in anonymity that rarely receives appreciation in the digital age. For most of us, everyone we know is connected all the time through one to four social media apps that we switch between as if something astonishing could happen at any moment. We learn everything we can about the celebrities we admire and the fictional heroes that keep us believing in the impossible. We consume information nonstop for the sake of consumption, and many never stop to question their behavior.

Scholars and people with a better grasp on human behavior than myself will cite this interconnectivity as the reason why younger generations are not embracing religion as much as their parents and grandparents. Kids today know about Jesus, but they also know of Muhammed and a half dozen other religious figures chosen by various groups as proof there is some higher power watching over us. The inability for anyone to claim they have undeniable evidence that one or any of those figures hail from some unseen creator is enough to make people lose interest, or at the very least, question their beliefs.

If seeing is believing, then I have recently been converted to the religion of Sleep Token. The anonymous collective of musicians spent the fall touring as support for the band Issues, which gave audiences throughout North America an opportunity to find hope and community in a group worth following. Sleep Token is not interested in selling out arenas or topping Billboard charts. The band honestly doesn’t seem interested in anything outside of finding and providing catharsis through their music. It’s a selfish pursuit. Still, it is also selfless, and it’s so powerful to witness that I genuinely do not know if anyone could abstain from devoting themselves entirely to the group’s efforts.

Even describing the sound of Sleep Token is hard to convey without direct exposure. The band’s sound is rooted in metal, and the members display an almost academic understanding of how to balance technical prowess with unbridled heaviness. However, it is their use of electronic production, layered vocals, and borderline pop melodies that make the final product so intriguing. It’s as if The Weeknd and Hozier spent time with Between The Buried And Me binging European doom metal and sipping on shots of espresso. You never know which influence will reveal itself next, and that excitement about the unknown is everything the world of religion is missing right now.

The band’s debut album, Sundowning, is a testament to their ability to forge cohesion between their numerous influences. It’s a sprawling release that begins with a piano-lead ballad and builds to a level of crushing heaviness that could shake the most painful heartache from your soul. Sleep Token is not interested in distracting you from the pain you hold inside. Instead, they want you to feel everything, and Sundowning serves as something of a guide to release and growth that acknowledges the full spectrum of emotions that can develop through the human experience.

This quest for catharsis is further made clear in the group’s live show. Sleep Token understands that people will follow their example, so they lose themselves in their art. Their performances are gathering for the world-weary souls in search of meaning amidst a chaotic existence. They call to the shadows with a promise of relief, even if only for a moment, and the huddled masses accept their invitation with open arms. It is as much a confessional as it is a concert, with everyone laying down their worries and stresses, and through that collective expulsion of pain, a community forms.

God might exist. It is not impossible to imagine some all-knowing entity sitting high above the clouds shaping the experience of life while remaining silent to the world’s cries. However, I know Sleep Token exists, and I believe in their efforts to provide catharsis to those who feel the rest of the world has left them behind. I see their work, and I have experienced the change it can make. If that isn’t a religion worth following, I don’t know what is.

Writer James Shotwell caught Sleep Token live at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan on November 30. Photographer Ben Howell was on hand to capture the event. Check out some of his photos below: