While it may be OK to not be OK, as the main refrain of the thumping anthemic opener ‘Enlightenment?’ insists (and while it absolutely is, we still have much work to do as a collective mass to support each other), Sleeps Society (Sleeps Brothers, in assoc. with Search & Destroy, Spinefarm, UNFD, Universal) takes a step and seeks to provide a place, a community packed with a kinship of like-minded souls who will be there with and for each other. It would be easy for the Sleeps Society (a Patreon-based family) to be empty words and hollow platitudes, but there is integrity to the missives that are as important to the overall point of While She Sleeps in 2021 as the songs.
Taking ourselves out of the music for a moment, the engagement and utter commitment to creating a collective is no mean feat, and it is right that the bond is celebrated, and inclusion and togetherness is a core value and ethos to the album and lyrics. Even better, this is all achieved in a way that doesn’t come across like a Metalcore Manowar, coming from a place of humility, gratitude, and a genuine attempt to connect people while providing encouragement and positivity.
All this does While She Sleeps even more credit than if they’d just released an album of bangers without the inclusive collective message and actions, BUT – and this is important – to steal a wholly apt phrase much used amongst my friendship group from a Dimebag Darrel column in a guitar mag from our youth: “There’s no point playing smoking leads if your rhythm chops hug!” You can preach a Utopian position, but if you can’t do the basics, if the art is substandard, it undermines everything.
Rest assured, though, in that regard Sleeps Society doesn’t let you down.
Closer to 2019’s reset album So What? (Sleeps Brothers etc,) than their acerbic earlier releases, …Society is the realisation of the ideas of its predecessor. Where So What? walked, …Society runs, and the achievement of the more polished, more accessible version of While She Sleeps is fully realised, perhaps nowhere more so than ‘No Defeat For The Brave’ which sees Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley seamlessly fitting in as if he had fronted the band his whole life, on probably the best song on the album. ‘You Are All You Need’ encapsulates every aspect of the modern Sleeps sound – raging, pounding heavy moments jostle shoulder to shoulder with electronic motifs, MeloTech riffing and another rousing chorus, while on ‘Nervous’ Biffy Clyro‘s Simon Neil helps a reflective track be powerful and ooze melodic quality.
And, you know, it is OK that not all of the experiments fully work. The sparse collective-vocal track ‘Division Street’ feels like an interlude that distracts rather than enhances proceedings, and it is unlikely that you’ll play ‘DN3 3HT’ – a collection of recorded messages from the band to their community – more than once, particularly as it clocks in at seven minutes and comes after natural closer ‘Call Of The Void’ (a trademark WSS tune that features backing vocals from members of the fan-community). But such matters are outweighed by the moments of strength, like when the title-track melds a gang chant, electronic licks, stuttering head-smashing riffs and a Def Leppard bridge (must be something in the Sheffield water) into three perfect chaotic minutes.
When a band emerges vicious and utterly brilliant on their first three albums, there will always be critics when changes are made, regardless that the alterations to sound and style make absolute sense, and are not cynical reboots but evolution and refinement. They may never quite hit the perfect maelstrom of their unholy first triumvirate again, but While She Sleeps have levelled up and nailed the third iteration of their sound perfectly on Sleeps Society, and it feels like their proud family is only going to continue to grow and grow while setting an example to the rest of us.
Buy the album here: https://whileshesleeps.lnk.to/SLEEPSSOCIETY
8 / 10