October 14, 2014 Sleepwave – Broken Compass (Album Review)
After the initial disbanding of Underoath in 2013, frontman Spencer Chamberlain declared to the world that his music would not die, but instead live on in another incarnation. This new musical monster would come to be known as Sleepwave, a sonic experiment and collaboration between Chamberlain and long-time friend/producer Stephen Bowman. To the surprise of many of Chamberlain’s former Underoath fans, Sleepwave released its first single “Rock And Roll Is Dead And So Am I” in late 2013, unveiling the band’s Pop-Punk fusion sound. On September 16th, Sleepwave released their first full length album, Broken Compass, via Epitaph Records to an interesting and eclectic result.
Starting things out on a mellow tone is “Paper Planes,” which opens up to a well-paced, drum-laden song that is invigorating. The snare-heavy track is purposeful and energetic enough to get the listener amped for the rest of the album. Then, the first single “Rock And Roll Is Dead And So Am I” rolls in with its techno-infused eclecticism that makes the audience want to dance, headbang, and sing along all at once. Chamberlain’s vocals slice through the multilayered dynamics to reach the ears and roll around the brain like a sonic calling card. Unlike some of his older Underoath material, Chamberlain is raw here. His voice is severe and calloused in a way that does justice to the long, hard road he has traveled to get here. A great example of his vocal angst and road wear is glaringly apparent in “Inner Body Revolt” where he cries out “let’s all just stand around while I’m just ripping at the seams” and “I’ve missed the mark again.” In “The Wolf,” Sleepwave enfold some jazzy and funky beats that resonate in the chest and an up-tempo that drives movement alongside some dark lyrical content. It is here that Bowman’s production skills are well-tested in the way each sound is layered and mixed for maximum impact and vocal resonance.
Slowing things down a bit is “Hold Up My Head” with its quiet modesty and simple, uncluttered musical development. It is merely Chamberlain and a minimal instrumental backing that progressively becomes more dominant as the song progresses. This is Chamberlain’s defiance on display, his refusal to concede to social expectations or become dependent on the praise of others. In an almost Nine Inch Nails and Orgy-esqe fashion, “Whole Again” drops in a techno beat and electronic production/back beat that dominates the track along with some drum work. “Disgusted: Disguised” begins with a somber and dark path that winds its way through the murk to an almost Static-X level synthesis production and shrill defiance screams. “Replace Me,” “Repeat Routine,” and their 2014 single “Through The Looking Glass” combine to create a launch pad of emotional indecision rife with uncertainty, like much of the album. Although each of these songs features some truly dynamic shifts and transitions that are easy on the ears, they all follow the theme like good little soldiers leading up to the finale. The final song, “Broken Compass,” is one of the most apparently dark songs on the album with the way it winds through the emotional cataclysm of Chamberlain’s inner turmoil. Despite the shadowy beginning, the song evolves into more of a declaration of independence and triumph with Chamberlain exclaiming, “Don’t save me, I’ll save my f**king self!”
For those that may have initially dismissed the reinvention of Chamberlain in this new fusion form as a mediocre attempt at a comeback need to listen closely, because Sleepwave is treading new water. Between the sonic creativity and skillful development of sound, the duo of Bowman and Chamberlain is definitely dynamic. The way the vocals and lyrics tear away at pretense and unveil the raw aftermath and uncertainty is admirable in its integrity, and the procession of songs creates a path through battling personal demons to becoming your own salvation. Even for listeners that fusion is not really their style, Broken Compass is a journey on record worth hearing. CrypticRock gives Broken Compass 4 out of 5 stars.