April 16, 2021 While She Sleeps – Sleeps Society (Album Review)
It would be all too easy to make a bad dad joke aimed at those who’ve yet to experience While She Sleeps’ proud eclecticism. You know, the people who have ‘slept’ on the band. We’ll spare you the Velveeta humor, and instead testify that the proudly self-made Brits continue to defy expectations on their latest, Sleeps Society, which arrives on Friday, April 16, 2021 thanks to their own Sleeps Brothers and Spinefarm Records.
Ushering in a new era of passion for their craft, While She Sleeps—Vocalist Lawrence Taylor, Guitarists Sean Long and Mat Welsh, Bassist Aaran McKenzie, and Drummer Adam Savage—has poured an immense amount of care into their fifth full-length release. This will come as no shock to longtime fans of the band, who formed in 2006 near Sheffield, England. From 2012’s This Is the Six to 2019’s So What?, they have consistently delivered award-winning material that has taken them around the world alongside the likes of Bring Me the Horizon, Parkway Drive, Architects and more. And, in a defining career moment, just over a year ago the quintet sold-out their headline show at London’s legendary Brixton Academy.
Now with their very own fan platform, the Sleeps Society via Patreon, along with a brand new album of the same name, While She Sleeps is ready to once again explore the varying facets of life in our modern world, from angst-ridden reflections on humanity to harsh criticism aimed at the quasi-political. Self-produced with the aid and expertise of longtime collaborator Carl Brown, the LP stands as solid evidence of the symbiotic relationship between the band and their dedicated fans.
The 11-song collection begins with a spark of atmospheric frustration and electronic tension that detonate the core of “ENLIGHTENMENT (?).” Combining superb guitar work and pummeling percussion, the track perfectly balances its brutal breakdown with soaring melodies, all as the band experiments with pacing and genre-fluidity. Offering glimpses of both the light and the dark, our time spent here delivers a powerful opening statement and the reassurance that “it’s okay not to be okay.”
This is a sentiment that is echoed in later moments, such as amid the waiting game of “CALL OF THE VOID,” the track that features select members of the band’s fandom, the Sleeps Society. But it’s also a thematic building block that paves the way for showstopper “KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY)” as well as “YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED,” where Punk attitude and Prog-influenced guitars meet to reflect on the arrogance, greed and vanity of humankind.
Then there’s stomping rocker “SYSTEMATIC,” bold titular explosion “SLEEPS SOCIETY,” and moments where they are certain to pile on even more layers of brutality, like on “NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE,” which features Deryck Whibley of Sum 41. However, these dynamic musicians are careful to switch it up throughout their tracklisting, to offer a slower pace on the somber assessments of “NERVOUS, featuring Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil, and to provide listeners a cleansing moment on the interlude “PYAI.”
So the wildcards, if you will, are “DIVISION STREET” and “DN3 3HT.” The former feels like an old-school protest song, a gang vocal and piano ballad that is imperfectly perfect in its approach and definitely not the norm for this band. But it’s the latter ‘track,’ a spoken word and piano conclusion, that stands as a strong representation of While She Sleeps’ character. A chance for the quintet to speak directly to every single fan, the over seven minute piece is an expression of gratitude and a testament to how they feel right now about their music. An interesting note to end on, it is an acknowledgment of how much the Sleeps Society has helped to make this album, and band, a reality.
One thing is abundantly clear: careful thought, creative intention and sincere passion were bled into each note of Sleeps Society. The end results reflect that fervency, creating an album that stands as a defining moment in While She Sleeps’ career. Whether or not it will go down in history as their most beloved, we cannot say, but we promise that the disc is worth every minute of your time and every dollar of your hard-earned money. Doing themselves proud while remaining ever humble, While She Sleeps has inadvertently created one of the brightest moments in heavy music in 2021, so far. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Sleeps Society 5 of 5 stars.