While She Sleeps – So What?

While She Sleeps have certainly had a bumper couple of years. Following the massive (and somewhat unexpected!) success of 2017’s entirely self and fan-funded “You Are We”, released on their own Sleeps Brothers Records, which netted them a best album win at the Heavy Music Awards and a top ten album in the UK charts, you’d think it might be pretty hard for Sheffield’s masters of metallic hardcore to keep the momentum going.

Reuniting with producer Carl Bown, who had produced their epic 2015 album “Brainwashed”, and bringing in the up and coming choral collective Choir Noir (a huge part of the incredible vocal layers on Bring Me The Horizon’s latest album “Amo”) to add some additional textures, the band holed themselves back up in their very own Sleeps Brothers Studios and hammered out “So What?”, an album that promises to be their best and most explosive to date and, even though they have now partnered up with Spinefarm Records, one that has been made under the same total creative freedom as “You Are We”. With such lofty promises, I dived in to see what “So What?” is all about.

Right off the bat, “So What?” gives us loads of the While She Sleeps that we all know and love. This is an album that’s all about heavy riffs and hooks that are big enough to fill an arena, backed up by super solid musicianship and top level production values. The band’s return to working with Carl Bown has resulted in some of the best production I’ve ever heard on a While She Sleeps release. Brown slides in all the layers and ear candy that he utilized so well on “Brainwashed”, as well as albums like Fightstar’s “Behind The Devil’s Back” and Bullet For My Valentine’s “Gravity”, to create an album that’s sonically just as interesting and diverse as it is massive and dominated by the ferocious riffs that are a staple of the band’s sound.

The two singles “Anti-Social” and “The Guilty Party” are huge hardcore anthems, equal parts melodic as they are crushing. “I’ve Seen It All” starts off with a gloriously manic whammy pedal guitar lead reminiscent of something Tom Morello or Matt Bellamy would come up with before launching into an epic melodic hardcore track with one of the band’s best choruses to date. “I’ve Seen It All” is finished off by a haunting choral melody that serves as a bit of breathing space before launching into the next track, the poppy “Inspire”, with its mainly melodic vocals and choppy vocal samples. “Back Of My Mind” features a small guest vocal from SHVPES’ Griffin Dickinson, delivered in his brilliant and unmistakeable Zack De La Rocha meets Jason Butler stylings. The contributions delivered by Choir Noir add a fantastic atmosphere that hasn’t really been present on a While She Sleeps album before. The layers upon layers of vocals added by having a proper choir makes you feel almost like you’re at a live show with hundreds or even thousands of people singing the words back to the band. This is one of the things that makes this album really stand out; they could have fallen into the trap of having choral parts that sound more like something off of a Nightwish album, but instead these are raw, gritty and almost barely produced choir vocals that mesh so perfectly with the band’s metallic hardcore sound.

So What?” is yet another defiant statement from While She Sleeps. Despite the huge risks that they have taken in recent years to gain more control of their own destiny, they not only managed to pull that off but it also has massively increased their standing as a band. If “You Are We” was the anxious beginning of a new chapter, “So What?” is the self-assured sequel, made by a band who finally feel that they know who they are and are confident enough to push the boundaries of their sound further and further. Whilst the poppier and more melodic direction on some songs compared to earlier material may slightly divide fans, it’s not as if While She Sleeps have followed a direction like their friends Bring Me The Horizon into Radio One A-list territory. They are still very much a heavy band that are all about riffs, grooves and aggression. If 2017 and 2018 weren’t already big enough for While She Sleeps, the next couple of years will definitely bring huge things for a band who are already bothering the UK’s typical chart toppers.

Robert Percy

March 7, 2019

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