While She Sleeps - 'Sleeps Society' Album Review
2. YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED
4. NERVOUS (feat. Simon Neil)
6. KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY)
7. NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE (feat. Deryck Whibley)
8. DIVISION STREET
9. SLEEPS SOCIETY
10. CALL OF THE VOID (feat. Sleeps Society)
11. DN3 3HT
Sheffield Metalcore outfit While She Sleeps are back for their fifth album, 'Sleeps Society', which was announced alongside the launch of their fan-oriented platform of the same name, which endeavours to create a stable future for the band and break free from the current conventions of the music industry.
The album begins on ‘ENLIGHTENMENT(?)’, which sets the standard for the album to come. It begins with triumphant-sounding horns, alongside a speech, before launching into the fast and heavy riffs that fans of the band know and love, accompanied with new, electronic synth-lines, showing immediately that despite being around for 14 years, While She Sleeps are still constantly evolving as a band. They continue to blend the new and old sounds throughout the track (and indeed the album), with some familiar instrument tones and vocals, such as the ‘ANTI-SOCIAL’-esque pre-breakdown snare sounds and the instantly recognisable guitars. They pull no punches, and provide a perfect opener for the new era of Sleeps.
Up next comes the second single released from the album, ‘YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED’, which starts with a more groovy, but still heavy, riff with harmonic vocals, before launching into a more unrelenting motif for the verse, with frontman Loz Taylor’s signature harsh vocals. The track leans into a hard/soft dynamic during the first half, going from the punishing verse and chorus to a more stripped back bridge, featuring whispered vocals and a simple yet incredibly thick bassline from Aaran McKenzie that will shake your bones. The bridge builds, showing off Taylor’s vocal chops with some cleans, before bringing in an intricate guitar line before launching into an incredible solo. Guitarists Sean Long and Matt Welsh have shown that they work incredibly well together before, and this is certainly no exception.
Following this is ‘SYSTEMATIC’, which is possibly the heaviest song on the record. Picture Hybrid Theory-era Linkin Park, but turn it up to 15 and add some good old fashioned Yorkshire anger, then you come close to ‘SYSTEMATIC’. The track yet again shows off a jagged synth line that compliments the guitar work in a way that, I’d say, we’ve scarcely seen before. This is While She Sleeps unleashing everything they have in an unrelenting manner, and it is glorious. Despite the half-time feel, it is as frantic as anything, with drummer Adam Savage (no, not the MythBuster) lending a tonne of power under the entire track. The track ends on a gloriously heavy breakdown with Taylor showing off some rapping skills, but the pre-breakdown proves to be just as interesting, with the guitar riff following the synth line. I can’t quite explain it, but this is everything I need from a Sleeps track.
Third single ‘NERVOUS’ comes next, featuring Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro in his second Metalcore appearance of the year, after featuring on the track ‘Goliath’ from Architects’ latest endeavour. However, this track is in a slightly different field to his work on the Architects track, as this song combines ballad-esque elements - emotional piano lines and crooning vocals - with the typical Sleeps grit. It’s a very interesting dynamic that we’ve scarcely seen from Sleeps so far, but my god does it work well. Simon Neil lends an emotional gravitas in his vocals, similar to some of Biffy’s slower songs, and his voice plays off Taylor’s beautifully. Naturally, the song contains a breakdown, with some percussion sounds that are reminiscent of one of the band’s influences, the mighty Slipknot, that fit so perfectly into the song.
After electronic interlude ‘PYAI’ is ‘KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY)’, which picks up the pace from the slower elements of ‘NERVOUS’ in typical Sleeps fashion, launching into the huge chorus straight away after a short intro. The first verse contains some beautiful stop/start rhythm guitar moments, with one of the most intricate lead lines I’ve heard from the band, all while Savage and Mckenzie hold a strong basis. The trademark Sleeps aggression is extremely prevalent within this, with Taylor’s “shut up” breakdown callout midway through the track providing a moment of catharsis, leading to more Slipknot percussion, before a bridge that provides a moment of relief with some more atmospheric elements and a brief vocal-only section, before slowly building back up with more rap elements leading into another, heavier breakdown, which then dies down into an almost acoustic section. This is perhaps one of the most intricate songs structurally speaking in the band’s repertoire, but they pull it off effortlessly.
The second guest feature arrives next in the form of ‘NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE’, which brings Deryck Whibley of Sum 41 into the mix. This track leans into Whibly’s forte, with a punkier edge to the first half of the verse and the choruses, whilst the signature Sleeps Metalcore styling comes crashing in afterwards. Like with Simon Neil, Taylor and Whibly’s vocals work incredibly well together, making each other feel more aggressive than they already are. The breakdown in this song is slower than the rest of the album’s so far, but it punches you in the gut before leading into another intricate solo with three different quick succession sections. The climax of the song builds and builds, before ending fairly abruptly in a spectacular fashion.
‘DIVISION STREET’ gives the album a bit of a left turn and slows the pace almost to a standstill, as it contains nothing more than piano and vocals. It is absolutely haunting, especially in the moments when the vocals are layered, forcing you to listen to the lyrics “send the prey to the predator now, send the rain to the man on the ground” being the most poignant to me. It provides the album with an emotional beat that was not expected, but like everything else on the album so far, was executed exquisitely.
Picking the pace right back up again is lead single and title track, ‘SLEEPS SOCIETY’. The track begins once more with a synth line, before Taylor screams the title and the band comes crashing in, the most notable element being the whammy-heavy riff. After the standard heavy verses and choruses (and I’m pretty sure a vocal sample from Portal 2), Taylor once again calls out “welcome to the sleeps society” (the main line of the chorus) after a lower, half-whispered section, before launching into another high energy, heavy breakdown. To me, this is the perfect choice for the lead single. It shows pretty much everything that the band have set out to do on the record, as well as what they’re trying to convey with the Sleeps Society platform. It’s a brilliant example of a WSS song, perhaps being one of their best.
The third and final feature comes in the form of ‘CALL OF THE VOID’, which features the Sleeps Society themselves. This is another emotional song like ‘DIVISION STREET’, although this one plays around with dynamics more and utilises the full band. The intro and first verse are quiet and haunting, before the band crash in with a heavy chorus. It goes back to haunting for the second verse, before picking up then falling back down before the next chorus. The song features less dirty vocals, with the only real example of the harsher vocals coming close to the end. Like ‘DIVISION STREET’, this was very unexpected, but it shows a vulnerability from the band that I always welcome.
‘DN3 3HT’ provides the album with an extended outro, clocking in at seven minutes. The track is simply a piano motif with the band speaking over it about how grateful they are for their fans, the continued support they’ve received over their time as a band, how much they love the fans, and thanking them for listening to the album. It leaves the album on a very emotional beat, but it is very clearly a love letter and a thank you note to their fans for allowing them to live out their childhood dreams. I have to admit, I cried during my first listen through, as it isn’t often that a band will connect with their fanbase on a level like this.
'Sleeps Society' is, purely, a phenomenal album. It shows growth alongside a very deep connection to their fans that is very scarcely seen. Every single beat of the album has been meticulously thought out, and every single thing has a purpose. For me, this is THE While She Sleeps album, and the strongest contender for album of the year so far. Put simply, I think this is perfection.
Website - https://whileshesleeps.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/whileshesleeps/
Review - Gordon Rae