The phrase “paid their dues” has been applied to so many bands throughout history that it may feel that this notion is now somewhat redundant, though While She Sleeps perhaps more than any other band in the UK fully deserves to have the label applied. There are only a handful of bands that have been as consistent as they have been in recent memory. And so to fourth album So What? (Sleeps Brothers / Spinefarm), and as with their previous albums we simply do not know what to expect.
So What? is not going to be plain sailing for those looking for the twisty, raging riff-laden songs that have appeared on previous albums. ‘Anti-Social’ kicks off the album and immediately threw me off, in a very good way.
The intro riff grabs you straight away and with a sound that recalls pitchshifter, it has a very groove-laden almost electronic feel to it. WSS have always had knack for writing memorable riffs and this coupled with a mammoth chorus means we’re off to races from minute one.
A lot of what is on offer here is WSS crafting and building songs that are begging to be heard in those bigger venues. What to some may look like a calculated move I see as more of a natural progression from last album You Are We (Sleeps Brothers). Those more straight forward rock elements from that album are brought well and truly to the fore here, but never once do you feel that Sleeps are straying from what they believe in, or lacking in conviction.
‘I’ve Seen It All’ sees Mat Welsh take the reigns on vocals and his vitriolic, punk-esque screams perfectly weave in and out of the beefy intro. The sing/scream dynamic which tends to get a bit tiresome these days is thankfully something that WSS have transcended without discarding the style completely.
‘Good Grief’ hones in on that now signature riffwork of Welsh and fellow guitarist Sean Long crashing around the angsty and suitably strained vocals of Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor. ‘Elephant’ uses melody to an even greater extent than before. The verses are amped to eleven and beyond before the song is brought down to earth with a chorus that sounds spacial and other-worldly, a sound that Thrice in particular have been exploring for a while.
I kept thinking about one album all the way through each time I listen to So What? and that is Ire (Epitaph) by Parkway Drive. Now, it wasn’t anything specific sound wise more of an overall shift of emphasis and how the writing has been much more streamlined.
To stick with a band like While She Sleeps means to be constantly rewarded with intriguing and beguiling craftmanship. So What? isn’t looking to kill Metalcore in anyway shape or form because there is still shredding riffs and breakdowns all over the shop. We have all been waiting for this band to get the credit they deserve and So What? lays down the gauntlet and then some.
8 / 10