Everything these days is measured. The constant calculation of success is drilled into us, and we’re all forced to look at the output of what we do to quantify its need and validate its continuation. At the root of it all? Money-fuelled power. It’s alarming. Of course, cash is a necessity to get by — we all have bills — but so many things are only done nowadays for the bottom line or personal gain.
Understanding this, Sheffield’s mighty metal outfit, While She Sleeps, has gifted us ‘Sleeps Society’, their fifth studio album which flips a middle finger up at various practices, for different reasons. The first is the way we constantly persist on this hamster wheel of acceptance that we’re governed by systems and corporations. We’re completely at the mercy of them. The second is the Official Charts Company. Naturally, I’m not keen on the Top 40, but I was absolutely buzzing for The Snuts, who recently claimed the number one spot for their debut album, ‘W.L.’. But Loz Taylor and co have chosen a local distribution company to release ‘Sleeps Society’, which isn’t charts-recognised. Big props.
Before we even get into the thudding drums, experimental electronics and super-fierce, shredding riffs that While She Sleeps are famous for, we’re led down a path of considering how “we’re tired of waking up and feeling numb”. The album opener, ‘ENLIGHTENMENT(?)’, also poses the question of whether we can “all just take a moment and see what we’ve become?”. You don’t begin a record with those kinds of intrusive directives if you don’t have a point to prove or something to say. At this stage, I might be familiar with the singles, but I’m still pumped about what I’ll hear next.
Between ‘YOU ARE ALL YOU NEED’ (a title I couldn’t agree with more) and ‘NERVOUS’, the ballad-esque track that enlisted the help of Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil, there’s ‘SYSTEMATIC’. Kicking off with a child’s voice uttering “this world is broken”, electronics then descend into a ferocious verse that’s screamed by Taylor. His punchy vocals lead into a hell-raising chorus that combines guitars and drums in metalcore harmony. Here it is; this is what us devout fans came for.
Gentle instrumentals flow through ‘PYAI’ into ‘KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY)’, which exhibits perhaps the most traditional WSS style. Again, the lyrics are aligned with the internal questioning of the album’s initial track, but you get pacy drumming, plenty of screamo and some intense aggression on this particular record. Yeah, this might be my winner.
There’s something nonchalantly cool about collaborating with Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley — I mean, he was a household name but I haven’t actually mentioned him for years. Whibley’s vocals feature on ‘NO DEFEAT FOR THE BRAVE’, another piercing, punishing piece that fits the WSS blueprint.
After that, the dynamic changes somewhat. Soft ramblings and musings are projected on ‘DIVISION STREET’, which deftly utilises piano keys — something we’re really not as used to. While I’d personally had more electronic expectations for this album, I’m certainly not disappointed. I think they’ve chosen to take a slightly different direction and it’s incredibly wholesome. Identifying that you have issues you want to raise as a band, all while having a dedicated fanbase who’ll gladly listen, is quite special.
Chronologically, the album-titled song ‘Sleeps Society’ is next, and it’s still as charged as ever. In fact, it’s maybe even more welcome while sandwiched between much calmer melodies. ‘CALL OF THE VOID’ employs their standard metal riffs but maintains some of the more delicate choruses.
But finally, if you weren’t escorted on an emotional journey enough by this moment, ‘DN3 3HT’ is simply 7:03 of muffled chatter from the band. It’s really candid and open, and it’s more of a note of thanks to those listening and among their society. While She Sleeps are here to “instil a sense of belief”, they say, and I feel they have done in spades. And we can all bet they’ll continue to do so.
If you only download one track, let it be: ‘SLEEPS SOCIETY’ or ‘KNOW YOUR WORTH (SOMEBODY)’