30 May 2015

While She Sleeps - Brainwashed

It has been just over a year since I was introduced to While She Sleeps.  The Sheffield mob have not let the grass grow under their feet in that time, they have release this album which is the follow up to 'This Is the Six' (cleverly linked here to the last review) which has been getting some great press.  They have recently toured the UK with Cancer Bats which was alleged to be a fantastic tour to witness, so at the moment there is nothing stopping this group and their ambitions.  This album was released in the UK on 23 March 2015, it has not exactly set the main charts on fire but it is rare for metal to do that these days (very sadly); yet it has been received with open arms by the faithful and that is a good sign.  Now, for this blog I am reviewing the standard version as this is the album that the band have made the basis of this release - I will have a rant about deluxe albums later on.  So, let us see how it sounds....

The opening track called “The Divide” is just a small interlude which starts of as a faint hum before building into the sound of a wild mob who sound as if they are screaming for blood.  Once the crowd has stopped shouting, the band launch into “New World Torture” which is a slow paced call to arms.  With the mixture of hardcore and nu-metal (minus the hip-hop), it also has some classic metal undertones (especially the solo leading out the song).  It is a positive call to arms and stating that people do not understand or know what the band (and one would assume that by extension – their fans) are all about.  It is a really good opening track, not exploding with sound that runs away from the audience, but with a slow menacing call to arms that sounds incredibly tight.  After such an opening, you would expect the title track “Brainwashed” to be a little more explosive; true to form that is exactly what happens.  From the beginning it is a frantic number that jumps straight into the number, slowing down slightly for the chorus so that the crowd can shout in unison before the circle pit starts again.   It is a really positive number that sounds truly mighty and it is a highlight of the album, the guitars sound like bombs going off and I have not heard that in modern metal for an awfully long time.  The next track is called “Our Legacy” which slowly things down slightly (but only slightly; it is one of those song which always sounds like it is a slow part of a song extended beyond its original origins but it is missing the heavier parts that makes those moments shine like diamonds.  There is nothing wrong with the performance, it is done very well and once again the solos are on the nail (in fact they improve the song for me); but it is still a bit weak after the towering “Brainwashed”.

The fifth track is “Four Walls” that takes things back up a notch once again, this is a great improvement for me once again, starting with the band singing in unison and then a riff building up to another aggressive and pounding anthem for the disenchanted which actually owes quite a lot to the hardcore scene of New York (Biohazard, Sick of it All, Strife, etc) with the dynamics of the song going between metal and hardcore with ease.  Next up is “Torment” which keeps up the hardcore feeling that has been quiet strong for the best part of this album.  Like a lot of this album, it is designed to get the mosh pit and crowd going and on that level it is a success; when you have the clean vocal section in the middle, it feels a little forced to be honest but overall the song is really good.  After this is the short interlude called "Kangaezu Ni" which is a piano only number which slows down the album just for the listener to catch their breath, it does that job really well.  The eighth track is called "Life in Tension" which is not going at a million miles an hour, but for that reason it actually works better. Because it is not all at the juggernaut speed and it does keep it relatively simple in places for the band then it stands up a bit more and makes for another highlight of the album for me (also they avoid the clean vocals more on this number and it makes for a more complete song). 

The next song which starts in a swirl of noise and feedback is called "Trophies of Violence" which slowly erupts into a groove metal style opening, it builds slowly still towards the obvious chorus that comes along in a hardcore style asking for the crowd to sing with the band and then the speed is unleashed in the number till we head back to the slower bridge part and it keeps changing at every turn.  It is a clever number as the changes are not made in split second Zappa style moments, but with ease as if shifting through gears of a car to get around a track as fast as possible - it is another interesting number which keeps up the good work of the album.  Next is "No Sides, No Enemies" which starts with a guitar tone that is both Iron Maiden and 80's glam/cock rock at the same time - that clear tone got me a little confused for a few moments.  But the song soon goes into the moshing swirl that is the WSS trademark and it is another number that keeps the interest going for the song.  Every now and then we comes back to that lonely guitar work and it seems to show that the band are wanting to do more than just mosh anthems; it could be a way they head in the future, but let’s keep an eye on what they are doing now.  The penultimate song is called "Method in Madness" is back for the jugular and starts with a massive dose of power and energy that sounds like another explosion going off within spitting distance of the listener.  This song does the most to cover all musical leanings of the band it makes for a brilliant listening.  I kept finding more in this song as I repeated it for the review (the cowbell was an interesting moment that made me laugh), but it is one of the best songs of the album.  Ending the album though is the gang chorus opening number called "Modern Minds" and slows the mood down with a hymn about the lack of originality and the desire for conformity of the modern age (something that really does not change) and then it goes into a final fit pumping anthem for the crowd with a slight break every now and then for the piano to calm the emotions.  It is an obvious album ending track, so we will leave it at that point.

So, here we come to the rub with this album - how has it worked out?  Well, the standard version does sound very compact and it is very enjoyable.  But it does miss those tracks which have been kept for the deluxe editions which is something that harms the original release, when did it become good to release a deluxe version of an album at the same time as they released the standard version?  It is akin to purchasing a computer game for £40/$40 and then having to fork out further funds for extra content that you need to complete the game. It used to be about the time of the end of a tour that you released the deluxe album or a super EP, but this is the rants of an old man who might be out of touch with modern marketing techniques and is not aimed at the band.  As we are looking at the standard version, we will focus on that - it is a strong follow up to 'This Is The Six', it takes the formula and does not fuck with it (something that can happen to bands far too much these days).  It is an interesting record that will keep the faithful happy, it will also bring in a few new fans as well.  It is a compact record that keeps the fires going for the band and whilst it does not melt my mind I am impressed with this record.  Another good record from a good English metal outfit.

7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track - Method in Madness

You can purchase the album from Amazon here 

You can visit the While She Sleeps website here 

You can also follow the activities on Facebook here 

You can stream the album (Deluxe version) on Spotify here 

You can stream the album (Deluxe version) on Deezer here

You can stream the album (Deluxe version) on Tidal here

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