Review Summary: While She Sleeps simultaneously return to their roots and take massive strides forward, proving themselves as one of metalcore's biggest and best bands.
Before I get any comments saying I've given this album no time, I had early access to it and I've been listening to it for a month. With that out the way, I hope you enjoy.
I remember when I first discovered While She Sleeps, their first CD, 'The North Stands For Nothing' was taped to the front cover of an issue of Metal Hammer in the summer of 2010, and I absolutely bloody loved it. Little did I know I was an early subscriber to one of the best bands in the UK heavy music scene. Seven years on and three full lengths later, I'm still just as big a fan, and their latest effort encapsulates me just as much as their first.
When you're in a band and you come from a place like Sheffield, you've got a lot to live up to. Massive bands have been pouring out of the steel city for decades, from Def Leppard to Bring Me The Horizon to Arctic Monkeys. While She Sleeps live up to that resume, and deserve to be on the front page of it, underlined, maybe even in bold, if you are so inclined. I can easily see this band leaving behind a legacy like the aforementioned artists, and this album will definitely help build that.
This album is a perfect example of a band simultaneously progressing and returning to their roots. While She Sleeps have always been an outstanding band on an instrumental front, with the majority of tracks here featuring some of the gnarliest riffs and breakdowns I've heard this year, as well as beautiful, soaring, melodic lead segments provided by Matt Welsh and Sean Long on guitar. Whilst having jam packed riff segments with eccentric drum fills, the band create some wonderfully spacious moments during choruses and some instrumental parts, which can be just as effective as making you lose your ***ing mind as any breakdown can. I think this is best heard during Empire of Silence, the fourth track on the record. It's really hard to fault the production on this, everything is clear and crisp, the guitars sound heavy and bright, the bass hits like Conor McGregor and the drums are tight and deep. Innuendo unintended.
Matt Welsh's unique and gritty clean vocals are a more frequent occurrence on these tracks than they were on 2015's Brainwashed, and they are a very welcome addition. Having two voices frequently present provides a brilliant duality to the bands sound, with Loz Taylor's definitive harsh vocals uniting perfectly with Welsh to create some fantastic group chorus moments. There's a lot of points on this album that sound purposely crafted to have massive crowds singing them back at the band, which creates a stellar atmosphere when listening. That's not to say this sounds manufactured, far from it, but if you've ever been to a While She Sleeps show you'll know they're no standard affair. While She Sleeps are true showmen and the crowds reflect that in the energy created by the band's performance. If you've never been to a While She Sleeps show, get your act together.
Lyrically the band does what they do best, and that is emotionally charged, passionate and often outraged insights into politics, society, war, corruption and introspection. This is, simply put, a very angry and political album. I think this is what While She Sleeps fans want, and I think While She Sleeps know that. Sleeps have always been very receptive of their fans and frequently express their gratitude to their fan base, and this album likely serves as a love letter of sorts to the fans. It's refreshing to see such humility and appreciation for what is essentially the driving force of a band. Watch and learn, Suicide Silence.
There's not a dull moment on this entire thing. If you're a fan of heavy music, which I assume you are, I know you, Sputnik, you owe it to yourself to listen to this album. If you're a While She Sleeps fan, this album will feel like a homecoming. You Are We is a massive stride forward for a band that are already miles ahead of the pack. This is an exciting time to be engaged in heavy music coming from the UK, and with this record, While She Sleeps solidify themselves as a flagship name for British music. Make no mistake, they're well on their way to being one of the biggest names in the history of metalcore. Personal favourites for me are Hurricane, Revolt (which is a titan of a track) and Silence Speaks, which includes a verse from Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon.
This album gets a 5/5 from me, what a phenomenal band.