Review Summary: Sleeping With Sirens drops the 'rise-core', and goes back to basics to give you an album well worth the listen.
Sleeping With Sirens (for the recording of this album):
Kellin Quinn - lead vocals
Jack Fowler - lead guitar
Jesse Lawson - rhythm guitar, screamed vocals
Gabe Barham - drums
Justin Hills - bass guitar
It was around January of 2010 when Sleeping With Sirens released their debut album for Rise Records, entitled "With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear." My band had played a show with them the day they signed to Rise, and I was curious to see how the album would turn out. At first glance, Sleeping With Sirens appeared to be just another run-of-the-mill post-hardcore band with flashy vocals (How outlandish for Rise Records). Even after the first listen of "With Ears.." it was clear that Sleeping With Sirens had the potential to write good music, but the vocals seemed to be a little pre-pubescent for most. When I saw that this album had been released, I simply predicted to hear the same band that wrote "If I'm James Dean, You're Audrey Hepburn". To be honest, I wrote this album off (as many probably have) and did not give it another serious listen until about a month after it's release. I am a picky person when it comes to post-hardcore, and Sleeping With Sirens gets it done on this album, with a different kind of flair than previously heard on "With Ears...". Armed with the ex-lead guitarist of Broadway and a new drummer, "Let's Cheers to This" is a great breath of fresh air in a scene where electro-core bands get all the preference.
The album kicks off with a very bouncy, pop-punk number, in "Do It Now, Remember It Later". The sing-song chorus showcases a different "voice" for Kellin Quinn. Not only is he singing considerably lower than on "With Ears...", but his vocals on these songs bring out the melody hidden within the guitars. Newcomer, Jack Fowler, breaks out a barrage of riffs on "Four Corners and Five Sides" and "If You Can't Hang". The latter, single number two, is tied for the best band-performance on the album. "If You Can't Hang" features catchy post-hardcore guitars mixed with Gabe Barham's heavier style of pop-punk drumming. Tie it all together with Quinn's swagger and vocals, and you have a great Sleeping With Sirens song.
It becomes apparent after "Who Are You Now" that Sleeping With Sirens has clearly developed a poppier sound with this album, but they still managed to keep the quirks that made "With Ears.." worth the listen. Aside from Quinn's soaring vocals, backup vocals still find their way into the mix and jump out at the listener. Especially in "Four Corners and Five Sides" (my vote for heaviest on the album), Jesse Lawson breaks out screams that complement the heavier nature of the song. However, this is a lighter album by any definition; If you are seeking sing-song, poppy post-hardcore, then look no further than "A Trophy Father's Trophy Son, Fire, and the anthem of a title track. The title track features the higher spectrum of Kellin Quinn's vocals, a piece of the puzzle not found as much in this album.
The other stand-out on this album, effectively combining the newer and older Sleeping With Sirens, is "Tally It Up, Settle the Score". Starting out with fairly basic riffing and drumming, the song kicks into gear when Quinn comes in with his soaring vocals, and takes it through the chorus. This well-structured song also boasts one of the heaviest moments of the entire album when Jesse Lawson steps out once more to provide screams for a breakdown about three-quarters of the way through. From start to finish I find this song to have the highest replay value, and highest level of musicianship on the entire album.
"Let's Cheers to This" might not be groundbreaking, but it covers almost every area I can think of that constitutes a solid post-hardcore album. Although having an obvious poppy slant, this album builds off of the best parts of "With Ears..." to create a hell of a sophomore album. This album has everything from melodic guitars, to heavy drumming, and even well-placed screams. There is still no doubt about it, as Kellin Quinn still remains the obvious star of the show. His refined vocals are a little easier on the ears, and deliver just as fully as before. If for nothing more, listen to this album for the great vocal performance from Quinn.
If you are listening hoping for metal, then you will be disappointed. Sleeping With Sirens is not a heavy band, despite their slight outbursts. Simply put, "Let's Cheers to This" is heavier where it needs to be, and mellow when it is better fitting. As a Rise Records album, this is quite a surprise. If you never gave this band or this album a solid listen, allow yourself to be a little surprised.