If there’s one album that could launch a band into the stratosphere this year, it’s Sleeping Lions, the third outing from Las Vegas mob Otherwise. Mark my words: this album is prepped and packaged for the radio airwaves, plus almost every track sounds capable of inciting an arena-sized singalong, but that’s not always a bad thing. Their previous album cracked the Billboard 200 at number 50. This could surpass that. If they catch their big break with this record, the general population of rock enthusiasts will find something to appreciate about Otherwise. Generic? Absolutely. But it knows what it is.
The latest record might sound like a band on the ascent, but their brand of hard rock is nothing new. If you’re familiar with WWE wrestling then you’ve heard a hundred bands just like them on past PPV shows and videogames. They firmly occupy that avenue made famous by bands like Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, and Shinedown. But they’re good at what they do; the tracks are accessible enough to crossover, and they still manage to rock hard enough to add some of crunch to their arsenal. Furthermore, out of the litter of bands who’ve tried to replicate that style throughout the years, at least Otherwise are a cut above the majority.
“Angry Heart” is a strong opener and more or less sums up what’s to come throughout the rest of the record. The titular track, though, is a highlight; once again, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a band of this ilk, but with some electronic flourishes and a chorus programmed to hit the sweet spot, it’s a powerful track. It also boasts an almighty solo from the guitarist, Ryan Patrick, to round it off nicely.
Meanwhile, “Suffer” is anything but miserable. This is an example of what I like to call the “tour video single.” It’s anthemic melancholy, but music videos of packed out shows, hanging out on buses and meeting fans were tailor-made for tracks like this. It’s another great song that plays to the band’s strengths of easy-to-digest bangers with big choruses and irresistible melodies, and if one track bolsters their ascent to the big time, it could be this one.
The album loses some mild steam at the halfway mark with “Crocodile Tears” but it’s not a bad tune by any means. It’s just very… Nickelback-ish. The lack of variation isn’t necessarily a detrimental when you know how to play to your strengths, but a couple of tracks during that middle section lack the fist-pumping urgency of the first half. Eventually it just becomes background noise while you think about that time you saw Crossfade live and wonder what happened to Thornley.
However, while the album doesn’t live up to the strength of its introductory jams, nothing here would sound of place as a single either. Thankfully, it ends on a strong note with the catchy “Blame” and the alt-metal power ballad “Bloodline Lullaby.” So much so that I’m genuinely interested to hear what comes next from them down the line. They have just enough bite to suggest they have some harder jams in them, but they’re actually at their best when they’re operating in familiar territory.
I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Sleeping Lions because it’s not essential listening. But if you’re a fan of this type of inoffensive, no frills, radio-friendly hard rock then it’s going to go down smoothly. When it hits the mark, it’s really good and among some of the very best music this particular genre has to offer. Either way, it sounds like these sleeping lions are woke and ready to conquer the jungle.
Sleeping Lions is available 9/22 via Century Media Records.