While She Sleeps – the Sheffield metalcore act rising from the underground have gained a lot of steam recently. However, this did not come easy and looking into the band’s history and records you can understand that the unstoppable five-piece is one of those bands who had to shed lots of blood, gallons of tears, and even more sweat to finally start getting the recognition they deserve for their refreshing and inspirational art.
While She Sleeps have grown a lot on me recently and they just keep amazing me the deeper I get into their art. Today I want to talk about their music, what makes the band absolutely exceptional from the masses of the oversaturated music scene, and how they manage to make metalcore appealing to the public.
They are pretty badass by the way
Comparing this band to anyone would be an insult. Listening to their music from early records to the most recent release SO WHAT? it’s easy to conclude that it is impossible for While She Sleeps to sound like anyone else.
The journey of the metalcore reinventors has not been an easy one – they are not one of those bands that suddenly got big by putting out the magic single or album. On the contrary the Englishmen had to go through hell several times and overcome countless struggles in order to finally start getting some attention. And, I dare to say, this must be just the start because this band deserve a lot more.
Oh, they also know how to put up one hell of a show live as well
Since their formation in 2006 Sleeps has seen a lot – everything from health issues to mental struggles affecting different members of the band and hindering their creative process. But did this stop them?
The Sheffield metalheads started shaking the underground scene in 2010 with their first short EP release. This quickly led to some interest which inspired the band to put out their first full-length in 2012.
A Look Back
If you take a look at This Is The Six you will notice the start of the incredible progress the band was about to make in the following years. Adding melodic elements to the hardcore sound the album was mostly united under to common topic of politics specifically concerning England as a nation. And this is something which would never change – While She Sleeps are loud and clear when it comes to politics and society’s mindset.
This was to be greatly expanded and developed in the future records starting with Brainwashed in 2015 which took the political aspect and brought it to a bigger scale and level.
Sick of watching with our mouths sewn shut
Raise the flag, sound alarms
Look at the state of me, you, us
The lyrics of New World Torture encapsulate the feel of Brainwashed as an album and make a radical statement about the state of society which has sadly not changed for the better. It will get further explored in You Are We and SO WHAT? but the clear views of the band and the passion with which they want to open people’s eyes are beyond admirable and would become a reason for their growing fanbase.
The 2015 album is a clear step forward for the music of the band serving as a well-constructed and impactful political statement towards the world. Lyrically and sonically heavy, angry, and determined to serve its purpose Brainwashed set the stage for something huge and times more powerful.
The consistency with which the band would progress and align their concepts becomes visible with the 2017 full-length.
You Are We as an album marked the involvement of even bigger modern world issues and the devastating effects of humanity’s self-destructive tendencies. It unites the powerful political statements of the band with deep personal reflections which would introduce parts of their demons and doubts.
Musically the band unleashed their creativity and made the first step towards reinventing metalcore by adding even more elements to the heavy riffs and drum solos. Melodic progression, various singing styles, back vocals, and modern beats stamped on top of the hardcore sound would intrigue listeners for a reason.
You Are We starts with an inclusive statement (displayed full power with the earth-shattering scream “you are we”) that we are all connected as people on this world and our actions affect one another. This has led to the creation of Hell on Earth and the band notes that if we don’t start taking action to redo the damage done it will be the end of the world as we know it.
While She Sleeps took their anger towards the direction society had started going and creatively manifested it with impactful lyrics and fitting melodies.
It’s like raking dead leaves in the wind
It’s like saints living life without sins
It’s like digging our graves in the sand
It’s like raking dead leaves in the wind
The concept of the wrong direction society has taken frequently comes back taking turns with other important subjects which dominate the album. In Empire of Silence, for example, the band calls listeners to reflect on their actions and see that diversion instead of unity is not the path we should be taking.
Division-unity contrast is also evident in the song Settle Down Society where the topic intertwines with another reoccurring subject – following the norm and blueprint created by society and living your life according to other peoples’ standards.
The oppression towards the different is also discussed in one of the leading tracks of the album Steal The Sun and later in Civil Isolation – two songs which also solidify the decision of the band to go independent with this album and leave creative restrictions and pressures from labels in the past. A decision which bore fruit and led to the creation of Sleeps best album yet.
Wild Awake confirms that and puts forward another important message from the band. They keep trying to open listeners’ eyes about the necessary symbiosis between humanity and nature and the topic often emerges with thought-provoking lines skillfully blended amongst other statements. This seems to be one of the leading themes of the album, Sleeps had reconnected with nature and spirituality on a level which makes the message radiate from their music.
Silence Speaks features guest vocalist whom the band reconnected with – Oli Sykes (Bring Me The Horizon) and gracefully unites all topics the album talks about into a single extraordinarily powerful track. Creative twists like the several seconds silence before the iconic scream by Skyes “Your silence speaks volumes” or the beautiful back-vocals by Matt Welsh (guitar) are simple yet surprisingly effective.
To make the album even better Sleeps incorporate personal topics like doubt, anxiety, and insecurity towards the end of the record. In Another Now ruthlessly exposes their fear that one day the band will be forgotten and their relevant messages will be lost forever without being able to serve their purpose.
They discuss impermanence in its many aspects by comparing the limited lifespan of people to the permanent effects their actions have on the world and on others. Another reminder that we are all one unit and we are all responsible to the future concludes the official tracklist of the album with a hopeful undertone represented in the line “I can survive if I know you are we”.
When it comes to the sound screaming and aggressive instrumentals often get balanced out with gentle singling and calm solos during the album. The overall creativity put into its composition is way higher than the band has ever done until that point and there are countless examples.
The tracks go through hypnotizing instrumentals somehow uniting modern rock with fast-paced hardcore drum and guitar solos. An album, which will make you go out and mosh with your neighbors, reaches its peak in the bonus tracks which showcase a completely different side of the band and stunningly demonstrate their capabilities.
The bonus songs appearing on the special edition of the album present alternatives of some of the best tracks from You Are We as well as absolutely mesmerizing instrumentals and a very raw first draft of how the album started forming in the very beginning.
An amazing gift for listeners the bonus songs show the appreciation While She Sleeps has for acoustic music and demonstrate the emotion and meaning of the songs on a completely new and hard-hitting level.
Successfully enhancing the experience of the album the acoustic songs will make you feel each word piercing your skull and tattooing on your mind with their raw power and emotion. Shifting between various moods and music styles the bonus tracks demonstrate the never-ending potential of While She Sleeps. Is there a better way to end an era?
It’s hard to imagine what else the band could bring to metalcore but SO WHAT? blows away any expectations or suspicions.
Melodic riffs, choir elements, gentle singing, even rap-like verses, and soft build-ups are all part of the unstoppable force which the album is in its eternity.
The 2019 record is more than an album – it is a belief system. A belief system which is showcased and explained to perfection, a mentality which is as relevant as possible in current days of regret and wrong decisions.
To fit the concept of SO WHAT? Sleeps kicked off the era with an thundering Asia tour
SO WHAT?’s recording was another rough test which Sleeps had to overcome in order to emerge stronger and prove their unstoppability. Even a missing frontman wouldn’t hold the band from performing a festival tour and nearly destroying venues with their powerful riffs and the fan’s deadly mosh-pits.
Diving in-depth into the album is something definitely worth doing as it holds incredible truth about the modern world and is a clever and well-executed concept with tonnes of references.
The progression of SO WHAT? is another thing which makes an impression – the arrangement of the songs and the flow of topics and messages is admirable and brings the band’s art to a new level.
ANTI-SOCIAL – the first track on the record is the strongest and most appropriate way to start the album. Slashing instrumental intro and anti-bullshit lyrics are complimented with a thought-provoking video visualizing the messages of the song to perfection.
Filled with political references and putting ahead the beauty of silence and respect ANTI-SOCIAL is one of the band’s most empowering and effective songs. It unites several relevant topics and points out important changes that need to be made in our mindset if we want to stop going backward and make progress.
The song also marks the reinvention of metalcore with its melodic and aggressive sound which is delivered in such a way that it doesn’t irritate or get too pushy – it is digestible, relatable, definitely makes you want to mosh and smash stuff, but at the same time, it brings comfort and peace.
The album makes lots of hits against society’s stigma and brutally disembowels the stupidity of the outdated mindset. In I’ve Seen It All the band uses their own experience to prove that the way endless chase we are manipulated to follow will never bring true happiness – it is a vicious cycle which never ends. Instead Sleeps suggest we start enjoying life and living for the moment trying to appreciate life for what it is.
The concept of appreciating the journey and striving for happiness is also strongly enhanced in So What, Haunt Me, Back Of My Mind, and Gates of Paradise – all incorporating other important elements and topics.
The motive of living life comes back at the very end of the album to conclude that overthinking and contemplating on the past does not do us good. The band once again pushes the message that we should learn how to enjoy and appreciate life and make the best of the journey. As Sean Long states in an interview with Kerrang!
It’s about enjoying the ride whether it takes you to the best or the worst place on Earth
In this regard, the band also takes a deep look into their personal struggles and fears.
Haunt Me and Back Of My Mind both balance aggressive hardcore with gentle singing and choir-like elements to explore past demons, anxiety, and future worries. Overthinking and torturing your mind by allowing your past mistakes to come back and haunt you can make life a living hell and the band demonstrates it extremely well.
Rap elements are added to the fast-paced instrumentals in Back Of My Mind as well as in Inspire – a song which celebrates the cycle of inspiration created by human connection which contrasts in a drastic way to the rest of the album which deals with the wrong direction society has taken recent years.
The album is skillfully condensed into the fourth track So What. It manifests merges the topics discussed during the 11 tracks and adds even more innovative elements to the make metalcore come back to life like modern electronics and pure singing sharply conflicting the raspy screams in the majority of the album.
The Guilty Party, Elephant, and Good Grief turn the political standpoint once more the point out the devastating effects of our actions which have sadly not changed since the 2017 You Are We.
Things are not okay and Sleeps have the right to be pissed about it. We tend to ignore the problems and mask them with short-term solutions which only create more chaos in the end. A trend evident in both personal and global level.
There are so many elements subtly added to the songs which make the album an absolute masterpiece it would take forever to list them. The most important one, however, is the album artwork which perfectly captures the idea of SO WHAT? missing any specific elements or sophisticated.
A notable change in Sleeps attitude is present with the latest album. Despite all the negativity and issues which it points out there is a hopeful undertone and empowering mood which showcases the trust the band has that things will get better. They even show us the way, all we need to do next is to take action.
Seeing the progress While She Sleeps has made and the unity in their growing fanbase is heartwarming. The best part is that I am convinced the best is yet to come.
The band’s mentality of living life to the fullest and giving in to the everyday joy and happiness instead of falling into an endless search of satisfaction is inspiring and thought-provoking. The band is breathing in new life into the metalcore scene and makes it appealing to the masses with their innovate approach. Fans and other artists alike can only extract motivation from Sleeps and their bold moves in regards to music. SO WHAT? was the necessary elaboration on You Are We and a great message for our messed up society. I just hope we listen this time and let’s see what comes next.
The band also launched a campaign supporting artists and musicians. You can contribute to the campaign and get the comfy t-shirt here.