Review: While She Sleeps – SO WHAT?

It’s been in my mind for a while now that there will eventually be a While She Sleeps record that I don’t like.

Like so many of their fans I go back to debut EP The North Stands For Nothing with this band. Since Brainwashed – in my eyes an all-time classic album – the spiky Sheffield metalcore outfit have, for all the right reasons, gone their own way.

Their sound has edged towards something more concise than the raucous cacophony of the early days. If there’s any justice it will continue to earn Sleeps a growing army of fans.

But sonically, stylistically, veering away from the fringes in an attempt to inspire and embrace a legitimately huge chunk of vital counterculture is likely to make inevitable a point in time at which a band I love becomes important in a much more powerful way.

And there will, one day, be a While She Sleeps album that leaves me and my metal elitist bullshit behind.

SO WHAT? isn’t that album.

This is the fourth full-length record from Sleeps and it’s a whirlwind of ideas. Some of them work, some of them don’t work as well. Some of them I like, some of them I don’t like as much.

But, ultimately, the band have produced eleven songs without a stinker among them, and how many bands can say that four albums in?

From the start of ‘Anti-Social’ to the end of ‘Gates Of Paradise’ 48 minutes later, SO WHAT? pushes a few kooky buttons and tries a few things that I wouldn’t normally go for, but every song has plenty to like.

The classic Sleeps riffing is present and correct, with a bunch of twists hardwired into the album by its dominant spirit of trying shit out; the title track boasts the best example.

SO WHAT? has some significant peaks, often allied to its heaviest moments. ‘The Guilty Party’ and ‘Good Grief’ deliver on venom but sacrifice nothing in craft.

It also has songs a little lighter on both ear-catching points of interest and infectiousness. ‘Haunt Me’ is the song that comes closest to losing my attention before the middle section chucks the groove engine into overdrive to remind me that this is a band I love.

SO WHAT? is a pretty fascinating record. It’s undeniably hooky, backed by a phenomenal, inventive performance by drummer Sav, and it’s distinctively Sleeps. It’s not completely to my taste, yet I like it all the way through.

It is, in short, a qualified success. While She Sleeps are now writing brilliant, catchy songs. They’re getting better at that and are taking creative risks in an effort to stay current. I hope people are listening.

SO WHAT? is out now on Spinefarm Records.

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Chris Nee