23 November 2014

Sleepwave - Broken Compass

On the request (or promise) from Mr M Richardson, I have picked up the review of the debut album from Sleepwave called 'Broken Compass'.  Sleepwave were formed in 2013 by Spencer Chamberlain (formerly of Underoath) and long time friend Stephen Bowman.  Currently signed to Epitaph Records, this duo has already been out on tours with Taking Back Sunday and The Used.  To be absolutely honest, I cannot remember hearing anything from Underoath; I knew the name, but cannot for the life of me think of anything they released.  The fact that these guys were signed to one of the biggest punk labels within a year of forming might have more to do with Mr Chamberlain's past, but I could be wrong (at the time of writing this, I have not even started to listen to the album).  So with a sense of adventure and trepidation, time to see what the fuss about Sleepwave is all about.

Starting with a keyboard intro and an emo guitar sound, the band sound about 5 years behind the fashion's of the music scene in terms of when this music was at its peak with their opening number "Paper Planes".  Sounding like a mixture of Depeche Mode and Paramore, this song is very accessible and straight forward for a more mainstream audience. It is well play and not offensive, that is a bit of an issue for me here; it does not bring anything nearing excitement or punk passion.  Track two is called "Rock And Roll Is Dead And So Am I", lots of people have said this over the years - Marylin Manson, Billy Corgan amongst others - and this song sounds like an arena anthem by a band that will still be playing clubs at this moment in time.  It has a lofty ambition that for now out matches their audience, the song has a big production sound and for a dead genre it seems that the rock is alive in this number (albeit mixed with some pop productions).  The clean vocals in places feel out of place, it could do with a bit more raw ability and rough edges, it feels like one of those polished stones you can get in new-wave shops.  It looks pretty, but feels unnatural.  "Inner Body Revolt" is not changing the mood of the album, it is another anthem for the disenchanted and the pattern of screaming at the sky has begun.  I know this has a place in music, but this is a song that sounds like it could have been done by later-day Linkin Park.  "The Wolf" starts like it has a fire in its belly, the fast aggressive opening is enjoyable and then it gets to the lyrics (which are bitter and twisted) and the chorus.  This is one of the better numbers on the album and it is ruined - very frustrating.

"Hold Up My Head" brings an industrial feeling, trying to be a bit like 'Fragile' era Nine Inch Nails which is mixed up with Linkin Park once again.  It could just be me, but for a debut album this is a ballsy number to try to pull off.  It is almost done, but Chamberlain is not the vocalist to do justice to the ambition on show here.  He is not a bad vocalist; in fact he sounds like he could be an impressive man live.  But this song falls down when he is singing, which is a shame as much like "The Wolf" it was starting off to be a decent number.  "Whole Again" sounds like a Marylin Manson school disco chant and once again I am wondering what the band are trying to achieve here, it feels like a J-pop rock and even with repeated listens it does not get any easier to digest.  "Disgusted: Disguised" pulls out the NIN back catalogue, but Trent will have nothing to fear.  The song is once again well played, but the lyrical content and singing (there no screaming on show here, even when it is tried it feels held back).  The title could be about the band themselves and it seems as if they are probably not aware of that - this song could have been so much more in the right hands.  "Replace Me" is another anthem for the broken hearts and I am not going to go into details again - this song follows the pattern that has been the problem that has been at the crux of this album.

With three songs to go, it sounds like the band has found the riff button on "Repeat Routine".  Now this song is actually a decent number that stands out from the rest of the album.  Musically it is very interesting (if not very original); it is the vocals once again - they are not powerful enough for the music on offer here, this is very frustrating and it just goes to show that there is a good album to have been mined out of this band,  but alas this is not the case.  Penultimate track "Through The Looking Glass" starts with the lyrics - You watch me flat on my back, you watch me dry out my lungs - if there had have been that much passion given to any of the other lyrics of this album, this would have been cheesy; as it is, it is one of the better lyrics and performances on the album.  It has WWE PPV theme wrote all over it and if it is not used within the next year I will be very surprise.  I wish there was more to this song as the music is brilliant it is destroyed by the thing that has blighted this album.  Ending the album is the title track "Broken Compass" brings this new aged miserable experience to an end with an expected dose of misery and frustration; it ends the album with a predictable level of despair and self loathing, not even the music sounds good for this number ending the album in the most limpest way.

Overall, this album is a disappointment on quite a few levels.  Not that I had high expectations as I had no idea what the band or their sound, but something about what the band was aiming to achieve and what they delivered are not in sink.  Having ambition and great ideas is admirable, but you have to also have the talent to make that dream a reality.  It is not too dissimilar to Linkin Park, Kill Hannah and a project called Blaqk Audio by Davey Havock from AFI, but without the wit and style of Mr Havock's vocal ability, charm or lyrical direction.  The fact that Sleepwave have a great ambition is commendable, this album is not a poorly played album in any way, shape or form - but the fact remains that the vocal ability of Mr Chamberlain and the lyrical level of the band just do not match that music and it falls apart at each turn.  You cannot get away from that and that is the beginning and end of it.

2.5 out of ten - If only there was some quality control

Top song - Repeat Routine

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can follow Sleepwave activity here on Facebook

Here is a link to the Sleepwave webstore

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

For our Deezer users, here is a link for you

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