REVIEW: WHILE SHE SLEEPS – “So What?”
2017’s ‘You Are We’ marked new territory for the British metalcore quintet While She Sleeps, based off the popularity of single “Silence Speaks” featuring Bring Me the Horizon frontman Oliver Sykes and a plethora of tours performing alongside genre heavyweights Architects, Parkway Drive, Letlive and others throughout the time since the release of the band’s debut EP in the summer of 2010. Two years after ‘You Are We’, While She Sleeps are back with their fourth album set to drop on March 1, 2019, entitled ‘So What?’
Opening with the pre-released single “Anti-Social”, the record quickly descends into what some people may consider musical nostalgia with a catchy but instrumentally complex introductory riff before the vocals of frontman and lead singer Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor carry the song onwards from that point. Despite the screaming vocalist/singing vocalist dynamic being the key ingredient that modern metalcore has built its rules on from the very beginning as a result of being influenced as much by late-90s/early 2000s post-hardcore as much as metal, the combination of varying vocal styles belonging to Taylor and guitarists Mat Welsh and Sean Long contribute a significant amount in terms of allowing While She Sleeps to stand out among their many contemporaries.
One thing which may or may not become immediately apparent to those listening to this album for the first time is that it is evidently clear that While She Sleeps have decided to approach this new record from the logical perspective of trying to write songs that appeal more in a live environment – perhaps more so than prioritizing the individual listening experience. This isn’t a criticism of the band nor of the album, but rather that these songs land closer to the bulls-eye of being considerably more enjoyable when seen live as opposed to how the listener would traditionally experience them. Of course, people will get to see this for themselves in the coming future, but granted While She Sleeps’ notoriously energetic and cathartic atmosphere during their shows these new songs will only benefit what the band has put together as a live act up to this point in their career.
In terms of the music itself, however, the songs on ‘So What?’ are undeniably filled with the key musical ingredients that make While She Sleeps the band that they are today. Whereas the last album ‘You Are We’ propelled the Sheffield quintet to new heights with the aforementioned Oliver Sykes-featured “Silence Speaks” single, this album features no guest appearances from musicians primarily belonging to other bands. As stated previously, it feels that on ‘So What?’ the members of While She Sleeps have made a conscious and deliberate artistic decision to eliminate all outside nuts and bolts, so to speak, that would possibly make the end result of their musical expression more complex and instead write songs that connect well on a visceral level more importantly than a technical level. The fact that none of the songs are any longer than 5 and a half minutes means that, for the most part, these songs have been crafted with the sole purpose of being relatively snappy and memorable rock songs that are capable of staying in the memory no mater how many times you’ve listened to them, or how many times you’ve seen them be performed live.
With ‘So What?’ it comes across as if While She Sleeps have consciously made a deliberate effort to expand their established musical style by carefully incorporating interesting new elements into the template of whatever it is that makes While She Sleeps the band that they are. The particular emphasis on more relaxed melody throughout the album definitely does not feel like baby steps to While She Sleeps moving in a drastic new direction as a band and as songwriters, but rather them intentionally broadening their scope and crafting songs that are built for the live experience more than anything else, and in the process of accomplishing this feat it has led While She Sleeps to become one of the UK’s finest heavy bands of the decade.