ALBUM REVIEW: While She Sleeps – SLEEPS SOCIETY
Photo Credit: Giles Smith
Since the beginning, Sheffield metalcore outfit While She Sleeps have been driven by their DIY mentality. Their colossal fourteen-year career has been crafted out of a brutal blend of crushing hardcore and killer metal anthems, that have been written, recorded and released on their own terms and innovation. Whether that be through the quintet’s own SLEEPS BROTHERS record label or their SUPPORT T-SHIRT, a piece of merch designed to shed some reality on the poor streaming rates artists earn, over more lucratively realistic and direct fan-to-artist income streams like merchandise. Hellbent on not following the music industry formula, While She Sleeps’ fifth full-length SLEEPS SOCIETY aims to change the way the music business works once more, whilst delivering an experimental banger of a record.
SLEEPS SOCIETY is a true manifestation of While She Sleeps’ extremely close relationship with their fans, a sign of a game changing band adapting to the current tourless times with this album’s campaign. Elite members of the band’s new SLEEPS SOCIETY subscription service, set up via the Patreon platform, something fellow heavy group Employed To Serve have adopted, offers access to exclusive perks through a range of donation levels. Members received an insight, and even input, into the recording process of the album, a model that not only brings WSS and their cult-like dedicated supporters closer together, but this imaginative initiative helps curate a record without big cash advances from record labels. For a band that have spent over a decade trying to re-define and defy the alternative music industry’s expectations, it seems with SLEEPS SOCIETY While She Sleeps are one step closer to making a change to metal music with this fresh and forward thinking campaign. Welcome to the SLEEPS SOCIETY.
Opener ENLIGHTENMENT (?) is a metalcore anthem with an experimental electronic edge. Much similar to the latter song NERVOUS, ENLIGHTENMENT (?) is a rally cry to wider society to create a sense of community, for the betterment of our collective mental health. A spoken word motivating monologue starts the song off on a stimulating note, accompanied by some staple While She Sleeps guitar riffs, before bursting into a mighty metalcore explosion of earth shattering percussion and ear splitting riffs. Vocally, cleans command the song in its chorus, a section where the mental health driven message comes powerfully to the forefront where lyrics like “If you feel like giving up there is something I need you to know/I’m here for you”, “There’s no me without us” and “It’s okay not to be okay” make admitting our feelings a normality. Past the cycle of verses and choruses comes the all important breakdown, something that this band does best. Low distorted riffs lie low below the song’s surface, slowly revving up their instrumental engine to build bigger and bigger, only to be stopped in their tracks by an almost bridge like curveball, supercharged with electronic, experimental and dance like sounds – a sign of While She Sleeps pushing themselves as artists. Despite the overriding heavy sound of the song, ENLIGHTENMENT (?)‘s subject matter is just as heavy, impactful and important to be heard.
Second single YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED is an electronic, metalcore and even rock rampaging tune. The lyrics sing of proving our own self-worth by seeking approval and validation from others, while the song’s unusual structure delivers short, sharp verses and an extended bridge section which comes in super early. Not forgetting about that moshpit stopper of a bridge that incorporates a more singalong style moment. The song and pit opens up once more, sending it out with a monstrous guitar riff between the bridge and the outro – one of the best riffs ever curated by guitarist Sean Long – before ending in true, heavy style the way it started. YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED covers new experimental territory for While She Sleeps, incorporating manipulated electronics into the band’s metalcore soundscape, truly embracing their creativity.
While She Sleeps barely give you time to breathe, before throwing us head first into the frantic beast of a tune, SYSTEMATIC. The song starts with a frenzy of heavy, high-tempo distortions that explode into a head-banging worthy opener, where pounding drums and pulsating electronics get the heart rate pumping and the palms sweating from the sheer intensity. Rap-style verses take this track to a totally different dimension, differing massively from the gang-led chorus by vocalist Loz Taylor and the big, bold, brash, audacious and attitude-driven breakdown. While She Sleeps have found their battle cry rally anthem with the searing SYSTEMATIC.
Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil has been getting around on the guest spots lately, namely on Architects effort Goliath and now on While She Sleeps‘ awe-inspiring NERVOUS. Lyrically, the third single is a snapshot of fragility and explores struggles with mental health, in particular drawing upon guitarist Long’s own experiences with anxiety. Facing mental health head on, highlighted so poignantly in lyrics like “All this pain we undertake/Learned how to love our own mistakes/’Cause we all share the fear to bear this atmosphere/So you are never alone,” the band hope its message will act as a medicinal tool for those going through tough times, with the ultimate outcome being that people will draw courage, determination and strength when they are struggling. Sonically, NERVOUS is a real stunner of a song that perfectly balances between the calm and the chaos, as intricate guitar work, pensive piano parts and passion-filled vocals all play their part in putting together a brutal but beautiful number, that showcases melodic metalcore at its finest.
While She Sleeps‘ construction of KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY) is mindblowingly detailed. The track completely rips up the rule book of a standard song’s intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/breakdown/chorus/outro structure to absolute success, with such complexity and intricacy. A raucous, sharp and snappy guitar riff opens the track, which also includes a colossal chorus ready-made for arena venues and festival fields, allowing fans to chant the confidence boosting anthem back to the band, as beers and fists are raised in the air. If that wasn’t enough, we’re treated to a bombastic breakdown, where Adam Savage‘s battering drums absolutely dominate. The ferocious KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY) is a four-minute assault on the senses, that hurtles towards you at an unbelievable breakneck speed.
Deryck Whibley of Sum 41 features on the second guest spot of the record, in the form of NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE. Despite the big name collaboration coming out of the blue, Whibley’s vocals are insignificant to the song’s overall sound quality. The track kicks off with completely clean, crisp and cold guitars, that build before Taylor’s screams take off to declare “There is no defeat for the brave,” followed by an absolute avalanche of heavy, hard-hitting instrumentals, underlaid with an almost euphoric melody. The high quality production on the song’s verses are mindblowing, taking a more vocally melodic route that eventually explodes into a head spinning array of screams, which are accompanied by grating guitars and crushing drums in the background. The chorus then comes around in all its catchy glory, with earworm worthy and memorable vocals making this section of the song very melodious. The track dips in tempo for the bridge before the breakdown kicks in with that screamed line once more, alongside an ultra cool guitar riff that sounds like it will be one of the most instantly recognisable, notable and memorable riffs in While She Sleeps’ discography. Sending out the song in true heavy, hardcore and metalcore style with pounding drums, NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE manages to amalgamate metalcore and melodic music to perfection, a true testament to the band, and moreover Long’s, unbelievable skills set.
Lead single and title-track SLEEPS SOCIETY was a bold statement of intent as the first taster of the album. The accompanying music video, which features a “press conference”, sets out the band’s intent with this project, which plays upon strategies to support artists, as well as addressing the problems that WSS think are wrong within the music industry and how they will enact change through the medium of a mixed media conference. The song itself then starts up, welcoming listeners to The Sleeps Society, before launching into a gnarly, racing and upbeat tempo opener, hardcore energy chorus and totally badass breakdown. While She Sleeps have always crafted visually impactful and high production music videos to support their singles, and the accompanying video for this strong kick-off song is no exception.
CALL OF VOID ft. Sleeps Society is arguably the most unique song on SLEEPS SOCIETY. Featuring said Sleeps Society, CALL OF VOID is made up of recordings of over 200 fans who sing on the track, selected from one of the band’s Patreon packages. This feels like such a special moment, allowing fans to feel intrinsically connected to While She Sleeps and CALL OF THE VOID’s recording process. The song itself is a proper comedown and reflective moment that still packs a meaningful punch, with the choir-like backing vocals submitted by the Sleeps Society featuring heavily throughout the track, before it ultimately climaxes with a grandiose instrumental moment in its closing stages.
Sent out by a seven-minute long monologue in DN3 3HT, SLEEPS SOCIETY is an album that is innovative and impactful, both lyrically and sonically. After fourteen years together and countless albums later, the Sheffield metallers continue to push their creative boundaries as they embark on a new chapter of their career, with the ultimate ambition to create a sustainable model for artists by breaking away from the traditional mould, in turn for something that builds a true interdependence between a band and their fans. This is a statement of intent that SLEEPS SOCIETY delivers on completely.
Standout Tracks: ENLIGHTENMENT (?), YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED, SYSTEMATIC, NERVOUS ft. Simon Neil, KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY), SLEEPS SOCIETY
For Fans Of: Architects, Counterparts, Northlane, The Ghost Inside
Written by: Katie Conway-Flood