WHILE SHE SLEEPS – Self Hell (Album Review)

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Enter the self-imposed perdition.

Sticking to what works doesn’t necessarily entail staying in the same place, and with nearly 20 years of experience now in the rearview, South Yorkshire natives and metalcore veterans While She Sleeps have brought a new meaning to the concept of sticking to one’s proverbial guns.

Originally cutting their teeth in the midst of the metalcore explosion of the mid-2000s with a fairly conventional approach, the subsequent exploits of this outfit would find them developing a meatier, groove-based sound by the mid-2010s when much of the scene had gone back underground, all the while still maintaining their blend of melodic hardcore, Gothenburg, and NWOAHM influences.

The onset of the 2020s and the release of their 5th studio LP “Sleeps Society” would see the incorporation of keyboards and industrial stylistic trappings, further augmenting an already varied approach, and with the creation of their sixth and latest studio effort “Self Hell,” the melancholic blend of electronics and metallic fervor has been amped up considerably.

In most respects, the sound that this quintet brings to the table maintains its familiar character, sparing no expense in the melodic hooks and heaviness departments respectively. Vocal helmsman Lawrence “Loz” Taylor explores a wide array of harsh and clean personas, often blurring the lines between the harshest Gothenburg vocalizations and the smoothest pop/rock ones to a fault, and even occasionally dabbling in some hip-hop moments. The pummeling display of the rhythm section via drummer Adam Savage and bassist Aaran McKenzie is a marvel of precision, whether in a mid-paced stomp or a raucous up-tempo stride, with the former taking a few moments to get tastefully fancy.

The deep chugging grooves and moderately busy riff work of rhythm guitarist Mat Welsh generally takes a similarly simple yet effective approach, with his keyboard contributions being a bit less conventional. But what truly sets this album, and ultimately this fold from the bunch is the highly intricate lead guitar work of guitarist and co-producer Sean Long, who is responsible for nearly all the sugary sweetness sprinkled atop this impressive auditory cake, often rivaling the technical wonder normally heard out of Trivium.

As a total package, this album presents itself as a sort of continuous play with a fairly theatrical character. Instrumental interludes and extended breaks between vocal sections are a regular occurrence, while the progression from verse to chorus is often an asymmetrical one, though that cadence point where it all comes together is impossible to miss. Sometimes the outcome is something resembling a rock radio banger with a much nastier coat of auditory paint, such as the leadoff single and title track “Self Hell” and streamlined banger “Down” (featuring some guest vocal work by Malevolence vocalist Alex Taylor), each going hard enough on the electronic end to make Linkin’ Park blush.

“Self Hell” Artwork

Other fast-paced cruisers like “Wildfire” and “Rainbows” hearken back a little closer to this outfit’s traditional metalcore roots, but still come with plenty of industrial detailing at the periphery, while the closer “Radical Hatred Radical Love” manages to bring the stereotypical metalcore ballad into a denser and more electronically-based paradigm. Plenty of other interesting moments filter in and out of this 45-minute slough, including some quirky atmospherics on the EDM-like interlude “Out Of The Blue” and the ambient instrumental “No Feeling Is Final,” culminating in an album that is, if nothing else, distinctive.

While She Sleeps were definitely thinking outside of the box on this one, and while the results are something that is in keeping with the marriage of metalcore and industrial that have been explored by younger adherents to the scene of late, this band marks experimentation with a good dose of familiarity that should keep their existing fan base in tow.

At times it gets pretty thick into the experimental weeds and someone looking for something along the lines of where this band was before 2019 might be compelled to skip around here and there, but Sean Long and his mates have done a decent job of avoiding the pitfall of getting lost in the woods while trying to expand their sonic pallet.

It may prove just a tad harder for traditional metalcore fans to process than “Sleeps Society,” and it doesn’t go as heavy on the riffs as “Brainwashed” and “You Are All We Need,” but between the continued adherence to metallic principles and the introduction of greater electronic elements, a synchronicity emerges that definitely keeps things very interesting.

Released By: Spinefarm Records
Release Date: March 29th, 2024
Genre: Modern Metal / Metalcore

Musicians:

  • Sean Long / Guitars
  • Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor / Vocals
  • Mat Welsh / Guitar
  • Aaran Mckenzie / Bass
  • Adam Savage / Drums

Self Hell Track-List:

  1. Peace Of Mind
  2. Leave Me Alone
  3. Rainbows
  4. Self Hell
  5. Wildfire
  6. No Feelings Is Final
  7. Dopesick
  8. Down
  9. To The Flowers
  10. Out Of The Blue
  11. Enemy Mentality
  12. Radical Hatred / Radical Love

Order “Self Hell” HERE

8.0 Great

While She Sleeps enters 2024 with a fairly unconventional yet banger-driven album, touching up their signature blend of melodic hardcore and groove metal style with an even heavier dose of industrial trappings

  • Songwriting 7.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8
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