Album Review // WHILE SHE SLEEPS ‘SO WHAT?’
While She Sleeps redefine metalcore with their new album SO WHAT?.
Innovative in sound and contemporary in message, established metalcore band While She Sleeps have stepped out of their comfort zone to a different kind of heavy on their fourth studio album SO WHAT?, and they have delivered.
ANTI-SOCIAL, the opening track of the album, kicks off energetically, a four-minute anthem setting the tone for the rest of the record. Tackling the themes of politics, corruption, big pharma and division in race and religion, it implies that people these days live a life that’s being directed for them, unfazed by the alarming changes happening to ourselves and the world around us.
Second track I’VE SEEN IT ALL immediately kicks off with a hypnotising riff. The lyrics cut in, introspective but optimistic, making you want to scream long. Around the two-minute mark the explosive instrumentals suddenly die down, offering a moment of reflection. “Maybe we’re all insignificant”, Lawrence Taylor sings. The quiet contrasts perfectly and slowly build back up to the climax.
“But we shall carry on!”. The song unexpectedly ends with a beautiful female choir, only to go straight into another cacophony of sound with the opening of INSPIRE. The track doesn’t impress as much as the previous ones in terms of diversity and misses the mark in the end, contrasting too strongly with the opening of title-track SO WHAT?. A song with a captivating guitar riff and edgy lyrics, it’s not a bad While She Sleeps song at all, although it doesn’t surprise. It’s pleasing, but safe.
THE GUILTY PARTY brings back the choir introduced in I’VE SEEN IT ALL, contributing to the red thread throughout the album. It doesn’t last long before the guitars rip through and create a balance of vocal purity and instrumental shredding. Taylor’s visceral vocals don’t hold back and are interchanged with moments of synth pop. Another song that is featuring a choir is SET YOU FREE. It is arguably the most poppy song on the album and this is where it becomes clear that the screams-to-cleans ratio has significantly evened out compared to earlier records and While She Sleeps is heading into a new direction.
It’s a road that multiple metalcore bands have taken recently, most notably Bring Me The Horizon on their most recent album ‘Amo’. It can’t be left unsaid that SET YOU FREE and the next track, GOOD GRIEF, back-to-back must be a difficult listen for metalcore purists who don’t like to hear their favourite bands changing their sound.
For those fans, there are BACK OF MY MIND and GATES OF PARADISE. The former starts out significantly heavier than the previous two songs, and manages to hold that vibe for a while. Despite some electronics in the backing track and even some surprising hip-hop influences, BACK OF MY MIND bursts with energy and carries that energy over into GATES OF PARADISE, the closing song on the album. Here we start out hearing good ol’ While She Sleeps, but after the halfway mark the song quiets down, offering a moment of introspection similar to I’VE SEEN IT ALL. The final song ends by fading out into silence, waiting for you to inevitably hit repeat.
In the making of SO WHAT?, While She Sleeps had full creative control by choosing to self-release and it shows. They have mixed traditional metalcore elements with more contemporary sounds and pushed the boundaries of what metalcore means, redefining their own identity in the process. As the band themselves put it:
The reason we create and listen to music is because it speaks to us in a way that could never be explained in words.
I think it’s safe to say that despite, or perhaps because of, taking professional risks and pursuing a new vision, While She Sleeps have created an album that will speak to both old and new fans and kickstart a new era for the band that will undoubtedly be promising.