Review Summary: You'll have to settle for a 4, I'm afraid.
“Surrounding me is a picture of a world gone wrong
Paved with sickness and the broken young
Count the saved, count the graves
Count the cuts and taste the blood of the rain”
The United Kingdom hasn’t half come under fire from its heavy music scene in recent years. Gallows described it in their ‘Grey Britain’ opus as “***ing dead”, Enter Shikari sing of a land where “killing is part of every day”, and now metalcore crew While She Sleeps have opened their debut full-length, ‘This is the Six’, with the rather unsavoury words above. This is
a supremely heavy record steeped in anger and pain, but it’s much deeper than it seems on first glance.
While She Sleeps have gathered substantial momentum going into this album, establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the live arena and earning such platitudes as Kerrang!’s Best Newcomer award. 2010’s more hardcore oriented mini album ‘The North Stands for Nothing’ was full of energy but lacked something in songcraft, and the first sign that Sleeps (as they will henceforth be referred to) could be world-beaters was in last year’s excellent single Be(lie)ve
, a hook-packed call to arms anthem that has been re-recorded with superior production for ‘This is the Six’. The band has clearly learnt the lessons it needed to and songs come first and foremost on this formidable collection.
Dead Behind the Eyes
kicks off the album with a relentless barrage of riffs and double-kick drumming, vocalist Lawrence Taylor stepping up with the aforementioned description of “a world gone wrong”. Avoiding the over-saturation of breakdowns that plagues so many modern metalcore albums (though when they do crop up they’re heavier than a sack of spanners), Sleeps instead land their hardest blows with killer choruses. Taylor eschews clean vocals in favour of a melodic scream style that stands out well and adds a unique edge to choruses.
Throughout False Freedom
, Satisfied in Suffering
, Until the Death
and The Plague of a New Age
, Sleeps rattle through relentless metalcore that nonetheless avoids being either repetitive or homogenous in its delivery. Lyrically the band mostly avoid typical clichés- Love at War
, for instance is about the band’s enmity towards younger generations for not having enough respect for their elders who fought in wars to protect their freedom. It’s a refreshing view for a band to take, and with lyrics such as ‘the mindless freedom puts our nation to shame, are you grateful of the graves"’ they make their point with barbed effectiveness.
It’s not all blood and thunder though, as the band also explore calmer waters. Album highlights Seven Hills
and the title track balance soothing gang vocals and melodic lead guitar parts with crunching riffs and screams to form more accessible songs that nonetheless don’t sound out of place. The title track in particular is essential listening, with both the best riff and chorus of the album, the haunting “we can sleep in our own graves” refrain elevating the song to anthem status.
Meanwhile, Our Courage, Our Cancer
, Love at War
and short closing piece Reunite
all make extensive use of piano to augment the album’s melodic side. Though not quite as exhausting as on latest Architects record ‘Daybreaker’, the piano passages do sadly become somewhat grating by the end. And though references to ‘The North Stands for Nothing’ do add a thread of consistency, they perhaps could have written a better conclusion than lyrical throwback Reunite
, by which time the gang vocals, piano and references to their past have become stale.
Imperfect though it is, While She Sleeps have recorded an excellent debut full-length in ‘This is the Six’. Effectively establishing a distinctive sound and containing within it a handful of excellent songs, it’s an exciting and consistent album that stands out as being quintessentially British in its venom and spite. Heavy enough to appease hardcore metalheads but with just enough accessibility for those with lighter tastes, Sleeps could be a major force to be reckoned with in the coming years. All uphill from here and the band should join fellow Sheffield residents Bring Me the Horizon at the top of the metalcore mountain. Just lay off the piano a bit next time guys, eh"