The past few years have been something of a test for the Yorkshire bunch, starting with issues in funding getting to the US to support Parkway Drive, to then having dropped all momentum in the recording of their newest album, Brainwashed, when frontman, Loz Taylor, fell ill with throat issues. There was a worry that if Loz’s throat had gone, that While She Sleeps as we knew was over and they’d live on as ‘that band that has the big W and S style merch’. But, through thick and thin, a triumphant return to Download Festival 2014 more than sealed the deal that the boys were back and with a vengeance.
So over the past 18 months or so of hard work, passion, sweat and final adjustments, it’s all lead up to this. The second full length album following This Is The Six, which debuted 3 years ago. Can they still live up to the hype surrounding the album? Well, to put it simply, yes. In fact, they succeed all expectations and have brought out one of the most powerful and aggressive albums of the past few years.
It all starts with a building intro of background noise, people walking along, chatting, the everyday life and emphatically drops into New World Torture, in which you’re immediately fed the signature Sleeps sound. Heavy riffs, gang chants and Loz’s iconic grizzly vocals. A slowly building chant of “BRAIN-WASHED” builds during the middle of the song, into their “metalcore-esque” chugs, then going into a gorgeous chorus courtesy or Matt Welsh’s clean vocals and a brilliant overlaying guitar part by Sean Long, which’re consistent throughout the album. Lyrically, we’re straight into the punk side of the band, challenging society, “We’re in the gutter singing, We wont give up…Sick of watching with our mouths sewn shut.
Raise the flag, sound alarms”. Look out. Yorkshire’s flagship metal band are back.
Feeding into the middle of the album are a cluster of hugely successful singles that came out previous to the album in the form of Our Legacy and Four Walls. Our Legacy is an emotive song, covered in layers of vocals, lead guitar parts, varying drum patterns and ultimately, varying dynamics. A song that conveys their lives and how self reflective they are in the positions they’re now in. Four Walls is a driving force (and arguably stand out) song on this album, effectively gathering every element of what makes up WSS and putting it in one song. Ambient guitars, gang vocals, furious drums that sound like Adam Savage is close to putting his sticks through the skins, Long’s poetic guitar lines, Welsh’s cleans and not to forget, Aaron McKenzie’s driving bass tones, all accompanying a balls-to-the-wall vocal line, it’s one of the songs of 2015 and it’s only March.
Ofcourse the band haven’t forgotten about This Is The Six, with vocal references in songs like Torment (which has one of the most punk introductions and one of the best blast beats we’ve heard in years) and then musical references in interludes such as Kangaezu Ni, bringing back the piano they were so very fond of on This Is The Six. Piercing guitar feedback that was also present on that album, also makes an appearance in many of the songs on this album, if not to just thicken the sound even more!
Towards the back end of the album, the songs are still relentlessly powerful, with huge breakdowns in songs like Trophies Of Violence and Method In Madness, which both feature none stop chaos and speed, making every single person want to start a circle pit wherever they are when they hear it. These are the songs you’d run into battle too, driving you as you’re bellowing a battle cry, “FORT YORKSHIRE FOLK ALL OV’R”. Oh, not to mention the fabled favourite, the cowbell is very prominent in Method In Madness. Well played, Savage, well played.
On a personal level, I’ve said countless numbers of times that I believe While She Sleeps are the next biggest thing in British metal. The delicate blend between their punk stylistics and then pure and vintage metal riffs and solos all combines into a hugely layered album. Whilst WSS have always been a very DIY band, this album has been polished no end and is the shining crown for the rightful kings of their genre. The re-playability in this album is beyond most, purely because you have to listen to it in full four or five times to actually hear everything going on. This review is merely touching on some of the highlights of this album. If I went into depth on how each song was a piece of brilliance itself, I could hand it in as a dissertation piece. Without fail though, the Steel City bunch have produced some of the best music to ever leave the boroughs of Sheffield, bringing their maniac style stage presence into a studio, capturing it, throwing in more musician ships, smelting it down and firmly placing into the history books.
Don’t worry boys, this band is more than just a t-shirt brand or your average metal band, this is an extremely special and long lasting legacy. It’s only up from here.