Review || While She Sleeps - "Sleeps Society"

I've been sitting on this post for a while now. When I received "Sleeps Society" a few weeks ago I was excited and started listening to it at once. And while it certainly helped me form an opinion right away, I decided to put off writing the review until my deadlines were pushing me (but then again I'm the one setting said deadlines) in order to be able to fully assimilate it. So here I am, presenting you a verdict, and accepting that I'm incapable of writing short reviews. Welp, you've been warned.

"Sleeps Society" is the fifth full length of Sheffield-based quintet While She Sleeps, due out April 16th 2021. Containing 11 tracks, it comes two years after "So What?". Now, if I'm being honest, the latter took a long time to start growing on me and to a certain extent it's still not quite there yet. When the first single off of "Sleeps Society" dropped, I will admit I was curious but still approached it rather gingerly. More songs followed and I began to realize what the band was trying to do with this new creative endeavor. And while this album is a definitive step forward from "So What?", it grows on the way that album paved and revisits elements from Sleeps' past releases. I have highly praised the band's musicianship before and will continue doing so when they deliver such great examples of craftsmanship. 

As a general rule of thumb, you can keep that "Sleeps Society" consists of many diverse and at times unexpected sonic bombs and still manages to maintain a true Sleeps identity. This time, the band appears more mature, finding the perfect balance between the intensity and heaviness they are known for, on one hand, and the melodic opening to the broader audience, on the other. At the same time, they cement even further the trademark sound we all have associated with guitarist Sean Long, go big on the anthemic parts and and then tone everything down and channel the dynamics of certain compositions through a piano. It may appear odd at first but in the grand scheme it's absolutely brilliant. The ecosystem of the album has allowed them to cultivate a very fertile ground where canon bangers like "You Are All You Need" can coexist in newfound harmony with nu-meets-butt-metal-meets-metalcore songs like "Systematic" and heartfelt acoustic arrangements like "Division Street". We also see once more the dynamic of Loz Taylor and Mat Welsh working together vocally, as Long colors the outcome with his own distinct tone. 

Furthermore, the album features guests who, in Sleeps history, are very rare and they have to absolutely fit the spirit of the track. This is particularly true this time around because of how each song transforms depending on the added element. On the single "Nervous", one of the more open and honest songs on the album, Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro joins the shared vocal duties with his distinct timbre and adds more depth to an already hard-hitting tune. Then, on "No Defeat For The Brave", Deryck Whibley of Sum 41 takes over and we see a change in the music patterns; while on Loz's parts the song has a Sleeps character, when Deryck comes in it shapes more into a WSS interpretation of Sum 41. Is it easy to accomplish? No, not really. But then again While She Sleeps have never cowered in front of challenges. 

Lyrically, as one would expect the songs call for unity and, although the band insists they purposefully leave things open to interpretation, the message they (want to) convey is usually very straight-forward. They also address mental health issues, seeing as members of the band themselves have suffered from mental illness, the importance of safeguarding your uniqueness, and of course include testaments to the Sleeps Society, the fans, the unofficial sixth member. In fact, this last part actually goes a step further and the closing track of the album is actually an open letter, a confession of the band to the people who have supported them over the years. And it's moving, hearing the band open up and express these things, sounding warm but slightly awkward at the same time, instead of reading a voiceless post on social media.

Overall, "Sleeps Society" is a phenomenal album. While She Sleeps established a bridge to their older sound while continuing to expand and satisfy their creative curiosity. The band is clearly at the most mature and best phase of their career so far and with the linear trajectory they're on, they can only grow further. 


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