While She Sleeps – Sleeps Society (Album Review)

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It’s one thing for a band to post a tweet or write a song that mentions the gratitude they hold for their fans. It’s an entirely different thing when a band creates a platform that offers multiple avenues of interaction between them and the fanbase, as well as releasing an album that revolves heavily around the fans themselves. While She Sleeps have done just that, even naming their latest 2021 release “SLEEPS SOCIETY”, an endearing term used for the heavily involved and dedicated fanbase. Consequently, I felt like I was writing this review not just about the band, but also the fans. It’s a wholesome thought.

The band has a formula for their music. Much like artists such as The Amity Affliction, The Ghost Inside, or even Stick to Your Guns, they have a sound that is almost immediately identifiable. What I like about While She Sleeps is that they constantly build extensions to their formula. They’re not afraid to try new things, and most importantly, be confident whilst trying them. There is a seemingly evergreen energy that permeates their albums, and that must almost undoubtedly be a reason that fans have clung to the band so tightly.

Though the band was formed in 2006, their breakthrough album was in 2010, titled “The North Stands for Nothing”. It was apparent from the beginning that While She Sleeps had ambitions. Personally, I found their first two albums okay. The energy was definitely there, but I didn’t go back for multiple listens. That changed when they released 2015’s “Brainwashed”. Aggressive, in your face, and mixed with a hefty amount of bass and well-produced instruments, I found what I was looking for in that album. The band really came into their own, I thought. From then on, the releases just grew in ambition, strength, intrigue, personality, and confidence.

“SLEEPS SOCIETY” is the band at their best. They pick up right where they left off after 2017’s “SO WHAT?”. The formula has been refined to the point that they can dance around it in the way that a jazz musician can improvise multiple different solos around the same familiar motif.

The album is littered with hopeful words that most of us probably wouldn’t mind hearing after a rather depressing year and a half due to covid. It’s also a timely reminder that in a world where we’re constantly being force-fed ideas, opinions, judgements from all over the place, we need to live and think for ourselves in a way that makes us feel fulfilled, and ultimately self-worthy.

As mentioned at the beginning, the band is well known for their deep and dedicated involvement with their fanbase. This album is the manifestation of that, so much so that the track “CALL OF THE VOID” features actual vocal tracks from the fans. There is this intense mass-gathering energy that they possess, inviting the listener to really engage with the music, and the band itself. The introduction to the opening track “ENLIGHTENMENT(?)” calls you out straight away, urging you to stand on your feet and listen up to the impassioned oratory from vocalist Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor. It takes me all the way back to when I was a young teenager hearing Slipknot’s track “Pulse of the Maggots” for the first time. The same kind of rally cry opens that track, and it’s electrifying. Having this at the very beginning of “Sleeps Society” is significant because you begin with the band, and you’re just as involved all the way through to “DN3 3HT”, the final track that is a tribute from the band to the fans. It’s a deep and personal moment for the band, with all members giving their own little “thank you” speech. The walkie-talkie effect on their voices elicits an imagination of them high up on Cloud 9, radioing back down to the fans to thank them for lifting them up there.

“Sleeps Society” Album Artwork

This album is solid. It’s produced with strength and confidence in mind. It’s polished, tightly packed in production but with some awesome layering that opens up the tracks for some huge moments that will undoubtedly be anthem-worthy at their concerts. Metalcore is the easiest way to describe the band, but they draw inspiration from all corners. Elements of hardcore, alt-rock, nu-metal, even soundcloud-style rap, are all audible on this release, so you’re not entirely sure of what can come next.

Overall, it flows incredibly well. There are some softer tracks that help to break up their relentless energy. After “NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE”, I was hoping for a bit of a ‘palette cleanser’, and was granted exactly that in the form of “DIVISION STREET”, a simple yet catchy piano arrangement couple with layered clean vocals. A similar thing happens after “NERVOUS”. We’re not thrown another hefty track, but treated to a gorgeous little ambient interlude in the form of “PYAI” that brings about thoughts of Sigur Ros and Brian Eno.

The songs are catchy, even more so than on the previous album. The chorus to “ENLIGHTENMENT(?)” is my favourite on the album. The vocal arrangement has this groovy feel to it, collaborating nicely with a little guitar melody that flutters behind it. The grooviness isn’t reserved just for the vocals either, with the instruments in the beginning of “YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED” playing a super fun sequence that includes the shakes a tambourine. This little percussive addition persists through sections of the song, supplementing the rhythm and energy that’s being pushed by the band.
The constantly mentioned energy in this album is expressed in so many ways, whether it’s the above techniques or just straight up hardcore slams that we’re given in a track like “NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE”. It’s easy to appreciate that the band is having a tonne of fun when creating this album.

The use of synth and sound effects has only become more prolific, but the implementation is various and refreshing. “SLEEPS SOCIETY” opens with an intimidating ambience that could be a great addition to the soundtrack for video game Doom Eternal. I would know, I put over 1200 hours into that bloody game.
In the breakdowns for “NERVOUS” and “KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY)”, there is a little ‘ting’ sound effect that comes out of nowhere. It’s random, but works really well and is a fun addition to heaviness of the moment. Again, relating to Slipknot, remember the iconic trash can hit during “Duality” from Clown (Shawn Crahan)’s baseball bat? It reminds me straight away of that, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Quite the opposite, actually; I loved it.

These same songs have some great sequences that explore a different style completely, yet it’s done with a great sense of seamlessness and naturalness. The verses to “NERVOUS” have this Linkin Park feel about them, especially from albums like “Meteora” and “Hybrid Theory”.

Speaking of Linkin Park, there is one moment where Taylor had me do a double take. In “KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY)”, Taylor screams “shut up” just before the first breakdown, and it sounds exactly like the late Chester Bennington’s “shut up” in the track “One Step Closer”. Whether this was a homage to Bennington or not, it’s a massive compliment to how much Taylor’s vocals have developed since 2010.

The inclusion of soundcloud-style rapping during tracks like “SYSTEMATIC” and “KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY) is an unusual choice, but the confidence in carrying out these sections makes it sound like they’ve been integrating this style into their sound since the beginning. That’s a talent.
Taylor’s clean vocals are no less brilliant, with some powerful moments standing out like the ending of “NERVOUS”. He belts out the phrase “we are so blind”, and it’s got the same kind of emotional fortitude as the vocal melody at the beginning of “Second and Sebring” by Of Mice and Men. The vocals are widened in variety even more by the legendary vocals of Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro) and Deryck Whibley (Sum 41). If you want to rush straight to their appearance, jump on tracks “NERVOUS” and “NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE”.

Guitarists Sean Long and Mat Welsh continue to create some incredibly catchy rhythms and melodies. Throughout the whole album, little licks and technical motifs are incorporated and it gives each song its own little personality whilst tying the album together thematically. The solo in “NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE” sounds like it was an absolute blast to record, as well as the accompanying riff for the congregational chorus in “CALL OF THE VOID”.

Adam ‘Sav’ Savage’s drum performance is equally notable. His drumming is dynamic and it sounds like he was eager to throw as much personality as possible into the percussion. I could imagine a huge smile on his face as he records his contributions to the album. It’s hard to say ‘check this part’ for Savage’s performance, because his personality literally covers the whole album.

“Sleeps Society” is going to be difficult for the band to improve on. With that being said, their willingness to explore new sounds, new moods and feel comfortable doing it will be their secret weapon to overcome the bar that they have set high. The confidence that I incessantly refer to should not be misconstrued as arrogance or overconfidence in any way. They are putting on a show in this album, and it holds the same amount of emotion and energy that you would expect from a live performance. Even better, it’s the confidence that you would see in the unabashed performance of a young kid in front of their mirror singing their soul into a hairbrush or some other microphone substitute. I finished this album with a sense that the band have created something true to themselves, and to the fans. Six full-length albums is something that the majority of bands could only dream of. For While She Sleeps, they show no intention of stopping any time soon.

Released On: April 16th, 2021
Released By: Sleep Brothers / Search and Destroy / Spinefarm Records / UNFD / Universal Music
Genre: Metalcore

Musicians:

  • Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor / Vocals
  • Sean Long / Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals/Synthesisers/Engineering/Production
  • Mat Welsh / Rhythm Guitar/Vocals/Piano/Artwork
  • Aaran McKenzie / Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals
  • Adam ‘Sav’ Savage / Drums/Percussion/Piano/Artwork

“SLEEPS SOCIETY” Tracklisting:

  1. ENLIGHTENMENT(?)
  2. YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED
  3. SYSTEMATIC
  4. NERVOUS
  5. PYAI
  6. KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY)
  7. NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE
  8. DIVISION STREET
  9. SLEEPS SOCIETY
  10. CALL OF THE VOID
  11. DN3 3HT
7.9 Great

While She Sleeps have carved out a place for themselves in metal music. This album is an ode to their fans, and shows the listener that the band isn’t just a band, it’s a community. The personalities of the members are injected completely into “SLEEPS SOCIETY” and the evolution of their sound is apparent, while staying close to their roots. Most fans will be more than pleased with this release, and new listeners will soon be bopping their heads whilst adding the band’s whole discography to their library.

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