Bend those knees, clasp those hands and say your prayers, metal has a new God and it’s shaped like While She Sleeps…
Metal is a genre that raises so many issues and pitfalls before anyone has the common decency to turn up the stereo. Many recoil at the word, picturing the sweaty, dark balls of misunderstood testosterone passion that comes with such a label. Many call out the developments and changes of the metal scene, calling ‘fake’ on the many sub-plots (*cough* crabcore) to the complex and aggressive story that has seen this sound worm its way through human life. Whatever way you look at it, metal is at war. It’s at war with music, it’s at war with itself and it’s at war with its own identity.
What people seem to overlook, is that metal can be so much more and While She Sleeps are eager to prove with their third full-length album.
You Are We is the sound of heart. Pure, beating, pulsing, heart. Full-blooded and full-throttle, unrelenting and unstoppable. Sleeps have always hinted at such brilliance. Their debut was stunning, their mini-album before was honest and brash but they have never been so concise and ruthless in their execution. Until now. You Are We is a collection of songs not so much written but constructed, block by block, word by word, hoisted and carefully placed to produce ingeniously crafted epics that build upon the raw underbelly that has always made this quintet’s speciality.
Jagged and full of the passion that this five-piece can’t help but live and breathe; title-track You Are We is merely a prelude of what is to come. Building from a soft falsetto of plucking strings, the song builds into a crescendo, beautifully highlighted by a tight melody that will continue to adorn the record. Nothing is without noticeable improvement. Guitarist’s Mat Welsh and Sean Long weigh in with soaring vocals that no one could have seen either men producing before now, adding resonance and bulk to songs previously built mostly on pure ferocity.
Single Feel is a great example of Welsh and Long’s vocal impact. A speed merchant of a song built on chugging riffs and devil horned solos, it takes such craftsmanship for the song to slip so seamlessly into its soaring chorus. “Said the Nomad to the sea, what is home without these streets I know?” It’s a line that cuts straight to the emotions and only Sleeps can deliver it with such raw emotion. Empire of Silence is just another expose of their vocal brilliance. Possibly the lightest song Sleeps have ever made, it is full of iridescent cleans and moments of drawn out calm that are so easily woven into the very fabric of the piece. It’s a tapestry of music and Sleeps are incapable of doing anything if it’s not totally seamless.
Similarly, Hurricane capitalises on everything that is monumental about this album. Loud, passionate, full of the heavy riffs expertly sprinkled with the melody of angels, Hurricane is possibly the catchiest, heaviest song you will ever hear and it resonates like a thousand cathedral bells heralding the end times. Maybe, it is heralding the end times. Who knows? It’s that good.
Whilst the emotions and god-like composition has put While She Sleeps into the next league of the British scene, they are still able to deliver on those moments of sheer brutality that contribute to that trademark word: heavy. Track Revolt is a ball-breaking epic of a song, full of solos, sweeps, enough chuggery (technical term) to create a vortex over the Atlantic, It is a stern reminder that this quintet are still eager to let their dark side show.
Following this vein of thought, Silence Speaks is a crunching metal song. Frontman Loz Taylor seems to escape all credit with his Jesus-like appearance and modest demeanour but his vocals are a serrated blade to the gums in this track. Angry, ragged and raw he powers through, what can only be described as, a heavy power ballad of screams, before duelling with fellow Yorkshireman Oli Sykes. He may steal the limelight a bit but it’s good to hear the Bring Me the Horizon frontman shred his larynx one last time for his brothers. Plus the breakdown to his line “I think the silence speaks volumes” will make you swing your fist like a fucking nut job. Case closed.
At the end of the day Metal will always be a genre of contention. It will always be marginalised; it will always internally struggle with its identity. Never the less, While She Sleeps have created something undeniably special here. They’ve not stuck to the script and, as a result, have produced the most important metal album since Slayer’s album Reign In Blood.
Honest, loud, raw, heavy, melodic and beautiful. It is everything While She Sleeps have been, everything they are and everything they could be. Don’t miss the revolution, it’s trapped in this album and it’s raring to get out.
The Lowdown: Five Sheffield lads with an ability to channel Metal superpowers.
Top tracks: Feel, Silence Speaks, Hurricane, Revolt.
For fans of: Architects, Old Bring Me the Horizon, northerners, having a lot of feelings.