Along with being one of the best modern metal and hardcore bands in the game, While She Sleeps have always been about fan support and self determination. Throughout their somewhat volatile career the band have continued to climb the ranks of contemporary heavy music thanks to the support of their tenacious fanbase and, quite simply, being better than almost every other band of their ilk out there. Their fifth record, Sleeps Society is the third released through their self-owned Sleeps Brothers label and the first backed by their Patreon platform, also called the Sleeps Society, and comes after the slight hiccup of their somewhat overproduced and perhaps overcalculated previous record So What? Yet, it seems like appreciation for that record (which contains some truly outstanding material) has only grown with time, and by doubling down on some of its experimentation, While She Sleeps themselves have found themselves in a stronger position than they’ve ever been in before.Sleeps Society should sound pretty familiar to longtime While She Sleeps fans. A cynical listener might consider opener “Enlightenment(?)” somewhat of a rehash of You Are We‘s opening title track, the massive, melodic anthem “You Are All You Need”. Yet, while it feels like the first time While She Sleeps are truly repeating themselves, it also feels like the first time While She Sleeps have sounded so assured of themselves. It’s not that they’ve ever lacked self-confidence, just that while each of the previous records have represented some kind of stylistic leap for the band, Sleeps Society sounds like a band playing within their comfort zone – not because they’ve run out of ideas; simply because they’ve found their sound and continue to pull it off better than anyone else out there.
The ill-fitting electronic elements the band dabbled with on So What? have here been refined into an integral and effective aspect of While She Sleeps’ arsenal. Perhaps Sleeps Society‘s strongest offering is the nu metal rager “Systematic”, which begins with a hard-hitting electronic flurry reminiscent of The Prodigy at their most aggressive. There have always been nu metal undercurrents to While She Sleeps’ sound, especially across the last two records, but this is the first time they’ve gone all in on the nu metal aesthetic and have wound up producing the best nu metal track since Meshuggah‘s “MonstroCity” as a result, while somehow making something that sounds like cheerleaders sneezing into one of th e year’s biggest hooks. Elsewhere the electronics are used more subtly and sparingly, only really taking the lead again on the album’s outstanding title track. Yet it is the subtlety and embeddedness of these added elements that forms the foundation of Sleeps Society and makes it a far more effective and successful record than the one before it – even if all of the other elements remain just as strong.
The other surprise standout is “No Defeat for the Brave” – a frantic, thrash infused onslaught that features none other than Sum 41‘s Deryck Whibley leading the charge. The Canadian pop punks are currently in the midst of theri own renaisance, and this just goes to show that the once snotty, irreverent act who surprisingly turned out to be their sceen’s most respectable alumni have what it takes to hang with the best modern metalcore has to offer. Biffy Clyro‘s Simon Neil also shows up on “Nervous,” although his performance is much more subdued and less show stealing than his feature on the new Architects record. Ironically, by being probably the softest song on the record, outside of “Division Street,” “Nervous” is also rendered one of the less memorable. While She Sleeps are at their best when they balance their trademark melody with their equally distinctive style of hardcore riffing and, although its melodies excel, “Nervous” also seems to lack something compared to the rest of Sleeps Society‘s more ferocious offerings.
The only major blemish on Sleeps Society is closing track “Dn3 3ht”‘ (that’s “The End” spelt backwards, with numbers, for the unenlightened). It’s an almost seven-minut “thank you” track, consisting of each of the band members taking turns thanking their fans for their support and gifting them with new age nuggets about the power of music like “open your ears and open your mind”. This kind of psychobabble has always been a part of While She Sleeps’ M.O – we’re talking about a band whose best album is called You Are We after all – and the track is inoffensive in and of itself. The fact that it constitutes a full fifth of a forty-five minute record, coupled with the band’s decision to put a distortion filter over everything so you can’t actually hear what they’re saying, however, suggests that it might have been better served as a Sleeps Society bonus content. Especially when it comes at the odd expense of previously released stand-alone single “FAKERS PLAGUE” (2019), which would have fit in perfectly among its other material, and helped pad out its somewhat slight runtime a bit.
“Division Street” is another curveball. It’ one of those sullen, sing-along, piano songs that plagued While She Sleeps’ earlier albums and which the band had seemingly (and thankfully left behind) after Brainwashed. The attempt to turn what were once merely moody interludes into a standalone song is admirable and admittedly well-executed, but its overly repetitive structure winds up being more of a hinderance to Sleeps Society‘s momentum than a welcome reprieve from the surrounding chaos – especially since it comes only a couple of tracks after the somewhat out-of-place sounding instrumental interlude “Pyai”, although it hardly as damaging as the record’s closing offering. Outside of these slight (and ultimately excusable) missteps, however, Sleeps Society is as impressive and consistent a record as While She Sleeps have ever made.
Sleeps Society doesn’t represent a stylistic leap like While She Sleeps’ first three albums, nor is it an experimental sidestep like So What? was. Instead, it is the sound of a band who have nailed down their sound and are operating at full capacity. If there wasn’t a trademark While She Sleeps sound before, then there certainly is now. This is a band who have always been at both the forefront and pinnacle of the British metalcore scene and warrant being spoken about with the same reverence as breakout acts like Architects and Bring Me the Horizon. While She Sleeps have also arguably been less commercially compromised than either of those acts and appear to be flourishing under their own banner. They’ve proven time and time again that they’re one of the best bands on the planet and deserve to have their success reflect their uncompromising reputation. If not now, when?
Sleeps Society is out now through Sleeps Brothers.