Review Summary: “We’re building walls when we should be building bridges.”
“Return to their roots” is such an overused term. Essentially, it’s a cheap way of saying that an artist or band is focussing on the key aspects which, subsequently, led to their popularity. Countless bands and critics utter this term unreservedly, but, rather than answering how the music sounds overall, it ends up raising more questions: “How far back are they going?”, “Does this mean that it’s going to sound like [insert album name]: Vol 2?” or “Is there any progression?” to name a few. It’s perfectly acceptable for bands to look back on their career and echo their past successes in the present time. Nevertheless, there is always a question of repeating themselves and risking apathy or risking their identity by way of progression and development.
Fortunately for Sheffield’s While She Sleeps, they have a vast fan-base that is as dedicated to the band as the band is to satisfying them. After a bumpy ride with the music industry, While She Sleeps’ third album, “You Are We”
, was ultimately funded by the fans and self-released. With that level of support, the stakes for While She Sleeps are raised even higher to deliver an album worthy of their fan’s direct commitment.
Luckily, “You Are We”
reflects the same belligerence that its predecessors exhibited. Adam Savage’s drumming ability blazes throughout the album, particularly on “Steal The Sun” which offers a thrash aesthetic to increase the band’s energy. The rhythm sections are what set While She Sleeps apart from the bottlenecked metalcore scene. Sean Long and Mat Walsh vary between technical, jabbing grooves on “Wide Awake” and straightforward fierceness on the smashing “Revolt”, complete with a huge, imposing atmosphere at the beginning of the song. Wisely playing to their strengths, Loz Taylor’s vocals have barely altered. Therefore, his dry, throaty approach continues to sound ruthless yet, equally comprehensible.
In an attempt to progress and gain a wider audience, “You Are We”
frequently treads into mainstream territories. Cushiony melodies are presented during “Empire of Silence”, electronics and samples primarily introduce the album during the title track, and Mat Walsh’s clean vocals take precedence on numerous occasions throughout the album. Overall, these techniques are here to create a unifying, introspective, hands-in-the-air atmosphere. While the clean choruses on this album are huge, such as “Hurricane”, the overuse of clean vocals is where While She Sleeps stumble. Aside from the single-minded lyricism during any of the clean vocals, the nu-metal rapping during “Steal the Sun” sounds irregular and the tone of Welsh’s verses in “Settle Down Society” simply sound angst and childlike. It’s in moments like these where you realise how heavily the album’s success is down to the impeccable grooves.
“You Are We”
is a good album although it has the potential to be something far better than it is. Unlike the majority of metalcore acts, While She Sleeps do not depend on breakdowns to deliver that all-important gut punch. Instead, they fill that space with driven riffs or an increased pace to up the intensity rather than break a track’s momentum with some binary, staccato breakdown. This is what makes the band better than their peers. This is what they should be focusing on with regard to development; not necessarily making radio-friendly songs, but sticking to what they’re best at and doing it in a slightly different way to everyone else. Master the skill, and then improve the product; don’t try and do both at the same time.